11. Sensory Matterings

Sensory Matterings

Convenors: Taina Kinnunen & Piritta Nätynki, University of Oulu; Marjo Kolehmainen, University of Turku

Contact: taina.kinnunen (at) oulu.fi; maria.natynki (at) oulu.fi

Seminar room: TH105 (Parallel sessions 1, 2 & 3)

Format: hybrid

This workshop is situated in the intersection of feminist posthumanism(s) and socio-cultural sensory studies, and it aims at discussing and developing novel insights into embodied matter and sensory worldings. We take that the prevailing western privileging of sight is also prevalent in feminist knowledge production, as the auditory, olfactory, haptic or palate matterings have not been fully recognized. Consequently, also multisensory methodological approaches as well as attempts to question the historical categorizations of distinct senses have been scarce. Yet, the prevailing categorizations and embodiments of senses are historically, culturally and socially produced, and thus subject to change. We are thus inspired by such questions as on one hand how different senses are gendered, classed, racialized and sexualized, and how gendering, classing, racializing and sexualizing practices take part in the sensory matterings on the other.

Rather than considering different senses as objective or universal, this workshop is committed to posthumanizing, decolonizing, and queering sensory practices. It seeks to find ways to engage with alternative, ethical, indigenous and more-than-human ways of knowing. Situating the idea of transcorporeality at its heart, it particularly is interested in exploring more-than-human embodiment and its entanglements with sensory matterings. We encourage to ask, for instance, how do we relate to animals, plants and inanimate matter through sensory practices and what kind of distributed agencies are entangled in those processes. This workshop thus welcomes theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions from scholars who are inspired by, searching for or applying novel, alternative, ethical and creative ways to re-think sensory worlding practices.


Tiina Salmia

Eeva Kuikka

Elina Penttinen

Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo

Annukka Lahti

Ella Poutiainen

Anna Heinonen

Tarja Tuulia Salmela

Taina Kinnunen, Marjo Kolehmainen & Piritta Nätynki

Tanja Mikkonen

Julia Katila

Magda Karjalainen

Anna Varfolomeeva

Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen


Tiina Salmia

PhD Student

School of History, Culture and Arts Studies, University of Turku, tiina.salmia@utu.fi

The gendered politics of eating meat and the intertwining of human and non-human bodies in Iiu Susiraja’s Meat Model selfportraits

Artist Iiu Susiraja poses in her underwear with her mouth open seductively while holding packages of chicken breast and bacon wrapped in plastic in two photographs titled Meat model 1 and 2 (2020). Several fascinating aspects intertwine in how I experience Susiraja’s self-portraits, such as how the works point out the gendered politics of eating meat, ridicule hierarchical dichotomies of Western culture (such as women and non-human animals as objects compared to a male subject – although in this case the artist and the model are the same person) and parodies consumer culture.

Global meat industry slaughters 70 billion non-human animals yearly1 (Aaltonen 2022). Carol J. Adams argues meat eating is a symbol for male dominance and that the most common way humans interact with non-human animals is by eating them (Adams 2015 [1990], 16; 20 & 22). Rosi Braidotti insists the human-animal relationship is determined by the structurally masculine tendency to take for granted free access to the bodies of others and to consuming the others’ bodies (Braidotti 2013, 68).

According to Stacy Alaimo human corporality is intertwined in the more-than-human world and its interactions with other bodies constantly shape it (Alaimo 2008, 238; 248–249). Furthermore, Jane Bennett suggests food is a lively matter with its own agency and argues that metabolism blends and combines again the inside with the outside (Bennett 2020 [2004], 72–73; 84). In my presentation, in a reading inspired by posthumanism, new materialism and ecofeminism of Susiraja’s Meat Model photographs, I will analyze how do the sense of taste, food preferences and body weight entangle in questions of gender, class, race, sex and species?2 How does the human body intertwine with the more-than-human world through practices of eating?


Aaltonen, Elisa. 2022. Esseitä eläimistä. Helsinki: Into.

Adams, Carol. J. The Sexual Politics of Meat – A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New York, London and Dublin: Bloomsbury.

Alaimo, Stacy. 2008. “Trans-Corporeal Feminisms and the Ethical Space of Nature.” In

Material Feminisms, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman, 23–46. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Braidotti, Rosi. 2013. The Posthuman. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press.

Eeva Kuikka, Tampere University, eeva.kuikka@tuni.fi

”Don’t you think that something smells bad in this hotel room?” Decolonizing smell in Indigenous literatures from the Soviet Arctic

In this presentation, I ask how smells and the olfactory sense are used in literary works by Indigenous authors from the Soviet Arctic as means of depicting and even criticizing the colonist practices and attitudes that the Indigenous peoples faced during the Soviet era. The question of smell is inevitably linked with the culture/nature divide of the Soviet society and its mission of “civilizing” the Indigenous peoples who were seen as part of nature and in need of bringing to civilization’s sphere of influence. Smell and smelliness were especially seen as signs of Indigenous peoples’ lack of civilization and linked with their interconnectedness with various non-human animals on which Indigenous husbandries depended on. The presentation addresses two literary works, Golubye pescy (Blue foxes, 1963) by Chukchi author Yuri Rytkheu and Aniko iz roda Nogo (Aniko of the Nogo Clan, 1977) by Nenets author Anna Nerkagi. Analyzing these two texts at the intersection of postcolonial and posthumanist theories, I argue that smell and smelling can be interpreted as a decolonial practice that brings to light the colonial experiences of the Indigenous people. At the same time, smells also become decolonized as they are presented as an integral part of the multisensory more-than-human world in which the Indigenous people dwell. The presentation will be held in face-to-face format.

Elina Penttinen, Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, Elina.penttinen@helsinki.fi

Coming to our senses: incorporating interoception in creative analytic writing workshops for doctoral researchers

In this paper I discuss the benefits and challenges in incorporating practices of mindfulness and mindful-self-compassion (MSC), in teaching creative analytic writing workshops for doctoral researchers in the field of humanities, social sciences and arts. Mindfulness and MSC are grounded in cultivating interoception, also referred to as the sixth sense, which means bringing awareness to the inner sensations of the body, thoughts and emotions in an open-hearted and non-judgmental way. I have offered these workshops in Finland and abroad since 2011. The workshops include a range of creative writing exercises, which are initiated through mindfulness practice. Thus, the students were thus invited to cultivate open-hearted curiosity towards the inner experience and begin writing and collaborating with participants from the place of present moment. The paper proceeds by discussing how the practices of mindfulness were received and responded to in an academic setting, which usually is marked by disconnection from embodied experiences, how the practices informed the outcome of exercises and communication as well as participants relationship with their own writing. The paper ends with addressing the challenges in incorporating these approaches, emphasizing especially the expertise required in creating a safe and enabling environment (Pihkala and Huuki 2022) for all participants.

Dr. Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo, University of Lapland, sandra.wallenius-korkalo@ulapland.fi

Breastfeeding as worlding

Breastfeeding is a sensory practise that is both intimately embodied and deeply relational. Human milk, living matter in itself, flows between the mother and the child entangling them together, but also inviting connection to other breastfeeding creatures, humans and beyond. In this presentation, I approach breastfeeding as a way of being, living, and knowing in the world. I ask how to address worldly relations by focusing on particular and situated way of being. Using autoethnographic vignettes, I trace and reflect instances of breastfeeding entanglements with the world. There is an urgent need for rethinking ethics and politics in our times of on-going socio-political and ecological crises and uncertainty. Following the idea of transcorporeality, I thus engage breastfeeding as worlding politics.

Annukka Lahti

Queer matterings – un/becomings of gendered, racialized and sexualized relations in multisensory research interviews

The article draws on my post-doctoral research project ‘Where the rainbow ends: the becoming of LGBTIQ+ separations’, which focuses on separation experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people. To highlight the importance of context, project explores LGBTIQ+ break-ups in two different cultural locations: Finland and the UK, keeping in mind that both countries are varied, multicultural sites where multiple histories and temporalities are layered and active. The data consists of 60 multisensory interviews of LGBTIQ+ people from Finland and UK, who have experienced a recent relationship-break up. Interestingly, the data sets from Finland and UK formed differently: While there is some diversity in the Finnish data in terms of gender identity and sexual trajectories, the largest group consist of white, well-educated bi/lesbian cis-women, men being in the minority. The UK data is more diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity and education, the largest group consisting of black gay/bi cis-men.

In this presentation I analyse the becoming of intersectional (power) relations in the multisensory research interviews - not only as intersection of certain fixed gendered, classed, racialized and sexualized positions, but rather as a production of multiple matterings in the research interviews. I strive to attune to how gendered, classed, racialized and sexualized relations emerge in the interviews through entanglements of human, material, non-human and discoursive elements: length, rhythm and contents of interviewees speech, their taking/not-taking space in the interviews, silences and blockings of certain senses such as sight from the interview and the materiality of the zoom/in-person interviews. What kind of affective intimacies and distances do these elements produce in the interviews and what can this affective-material knowledge reveal about the intersecting of gendered, classed, racialized and sexualized relations in the LGBTIQ+ break-ups?

Ella Poutiainen, Doctoral Researcher University of Turku / Gender Studies, elinpo@utu.fi

The sense of femininity: feeling and mattering gender in feminine spiritualities

Format: face-to-face

Women-oriented spiritualities have recently become increasingly popular, inviting women to heal and empower themselves by finding their inner goddess and true feminine power. These ”feminine spiritualities” claim that mainstream spirituality/religion is masculine biased and ignorant of the specificities of the female body and feminine spiritual experience, and place the female body and feminine spiritual energy at the centre of spiritual practice. Feminists have criticised feminine spiritualities and the sacralisation of the female body for promoting essentialist and universalized conceptions of womanhood (Bobel 2010; Danuta-Walters 1985). However, some recent analyses have suggested that feminine spiritualities can be seen in terms of a creative exploration of the open-ended potential of sexual difference (Longman 2018) that doesn't simply reduce the body to a biologically deterministic one (Plancke 2021). Based on ethnographic research, this presentation explores the kinds of ways of knowing the female body that feminine spiritualities offer beyond biomedical understandings? I suggest that accusations of essentialism result from a failure to consider what the spiritual adds to how gender is imagined and lived. Feminine spiritualities frequently imagine the feminine as a spiritual energy, not as a stable essence or property of a body. This energetic feminine is claimed to reside in all bodies whether male or female, human or nonhuman, animate or inanimate. Hence, femininity appears as affective and atmospheric, something that exceeds the female body and flows in and between bodies and things. Blackman (2012) suggests that theories of affect and embodiment should take spiritual and psychic matters seriously in order to illuminate the permeability of bodies and selves. Following Blackman I suggest, that the spiritually gendered body could be understood as im/material, and ask how the experience and embodiment of feminity is felt and mattered in connection to enviroments, materials, objects, elements and otherworldly forces?

Anna Heinonen, SKY Doctoral Programme, University of Helsinki, anna.m.heinonen@helsinki.fi

Multisensory connections in the space of Finnish small-scale communes

This presentation addresses the multisensory space of home through the experience of living in Finnish communal households. Small-scale communes are built in standard dwellings in Finnish housing stock. Most apartments follow the architectural model of the modern dwelling, historically designed to host a nuclear family inside the walls of a home. Certain functions, for instance cooking, eating, washing up, cleaning and sleeping center in the domestic space and create particular multisensory connections between people. The material dwelling steers the ways the multisensory experiences take place, often also crossing clear conceptual boundaries that the residents would like to establish, for instance between private and common spaces. In nuclear family settings such multisensory connections inside a dwelling are usually unproblematized because the family is understood to be in accord with the material and sensory proximity inside the dwelling – even if it not always the case. In small-scale communes however, the situation is more complicated. Communal relations come in many shapes and are culturally unestablished, and people need to navigate these sensory connections as a part of the process where they make sense of their mutual relations. As the sensory space is always in motion, simultaneously the relationships are in a constant flux.

Tarja Tuulia Salmela, Postdoctoral research fellow, The Arctic University of Norway, tarja.t.salmela@uit.no


Traveling with landscapes: road trips, vanlife and sensory worlding practices

The history of road trips dates to the end of the 19th century-early 20th century. Even as the first long-distance road trip took place in Germany, the (Historic) Route 66 established in 1926 stands for the symbol of the American Road trip culture. With the establishment of new highways in the early 20th century US, together with the growing popularity of ownership of automobiles, the road trip culture started to bloom, take shape, construct a mobile form of vacation, and build a service economy to answer the needs of road-travelers with their desire of recreation, sightseeing and nurturing of inter-state family relations. The road trip culture took a new direction in the 60s when the van culture started to blossom, associated with the hippie movement and the embrace of freedom, and with a strong expression of nomadism-related counterculture, a collective resistance of the political system, in the 70s. Today, the vanlife phenomenon stands for a fusion of the ‘vacation & recreation’ and ‘resistance’ motivations of living a life on the road and is entangled in complex ways with the still ongoing covid-pandemic.

In this presentation I talk about my postdoctoral research project at the UiT – Arctic University of Norway, called Vanlife landscapes (2022-2025à)*. In the project, I aim to craft alternative stories of vanlife and the road trip culture through decolonizing, more-than-human storytelling practices. These practices are sensitive to the forgotten, silenced or disregarded histories of the landscapes driven through, evoking alternative conceptualizations and lived experiences of the “Great American road trip”. I call for a better understanding of the potential as well as limitations of vanlife(s) in the creation of sensorial relations with the places and landscapes traveled with. In my presentation, I will talk about my ongoing work in Sápmi (Helgeland, Finnmark) and Northern Highlands, Scotland.

* The project is situated within the larger project at UiT: Traveling Post-Corona: Revisiting Guests and Hosts (2021-2025), https://uit.no/project/reiselivet-post-corona.

Taina Kinnunen, Marjo Kolehmainen, Piritta Nätynki

Embracing water, healing pine: Touch-walking and transcorporeal worldings

Our presentation considers touch as an embodied worlding practice (Stewart 2012). Humans intentionally seek tactile transspecies contact and form deeply meaningful relationships with natural elements and beings, making worlds by cherishing contact with their chosen natural bodies. We have explored these relationships through a lens provided by touch-walking, an immersive method developed especially for our micro research. In particular, the paper examines three co-researchers’ tactile relations with trees and water(s). These transcorporeal relations entail multilayered, more-than-human intimacies.

Touch-walking as a walking-with method opens possibilities for participatory affective encounters and encourages co-researchers to share their haptic knowledges, memories, and reflections regarding their more-than-human companionships. Our theoretical discussion brings insights from feminist posthumanism (Alaimo 2008; Neimanis 2016), affect theory into engagement with socio-cultural skin and touch studies (Paterson 2007; Howes 2010). We also suggest that the development of further multisensory research methodologies can advance sensible environmental ethics and thus support sustainable coexistence across species.

Keywords: touch, worlding, touch-walking method, more-than-human, natural bodies, affect, intimacy

Tanja Mikkonen, Helsinki university, tanja.mikkonen@helsinki.fi

Material entanglements - a queer phenomenological study about materialities, cultural norms and feelings of belonging in Helsinki city

How are people experiencing places and objects differently depending on identity and belonging? What kind of feelings are attached to places and objects and how have these a capacity to affect people? These questions are entrances to my phd thesis.

I am with queer phenomenology (see Ahmed 2006), intersectional and posthumanist perspectives (see Barad 2007) examining LGBTQ+ identified people´s experiences of places and objects in the context of Helsinki, Finland. The overall aim is to produce knowledge about how places and objects are actors (see Bennett 2010) in reproducing feelings of belonging and non-belonging from a norm critical perspective. Methodologically I am re-centering the focus from a specific group/s of people to instead highlight cultural norms through people´s experiences of them. Through the experiences of LGBTQ+ identified people, I examine the material-disursive entanglements (Barad 2007) of places, objects and cultural norms, such as heteronorms. Inquiries that raise questions of (in-)equality and democracy in relation to place, norms and identities.

I am using semi-structured and go along interviews combined with visual ethnography (Pink 2007) where I photograph places and objects with the research participants. This with the aim to through the pictures visualize the discussions around material-discursive entanglements of places, objects and norms from an intersectional perspective.

In this paper I will with examples from my own work discuss what epistemological consequences it has to think norms and cultural processes through materialities, that is, with posthumanist and new materialist perspectives.

Julia Katila, Tampere University, julia.katila@tuni.fi, online presentation

Tactile intercorporeality: Touch as a way of inhabiting and disseminating affection in intimate relationships

In this presentation, I explore embodied multisensorial interaction among romantic couples. Drawing from Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Roald, Kasper Levin, and Simo Køppe) perspective on affect and human embodiment, I explore the ways in which participants of interaction touch each other in order to disseminate affection, as well as to be with each other and co-inhabit the affective moment. Through these embodied actions, the participants contribute to the overall affective situation of the relationship and are also affected by it. Taking as my points of focus moments of non-verbalized tactile affection, including kissing, hugging, and caressing, I leverage video ethnography (e.g., Goodwin and Cekaite, 2018) to analyze such intimate encounters. As for my data, I recorded the everyday life of 10 Finnish heterosexual and same-sex couples for 7 days with 4–5 video cameras for 10–20 hours a day. I then showed the participants clips from their own interaction and asked for their own interpretation of the interactional events. For the analysis, I utilize both the video recordings of the couples’ everyday life and the participants’ interviews. I finish with a discussion about touch as a crucial way for bodies to co-live affect in an intimate relationship.


Goodwin, M.H. & Cekaite, A. (2018). Embodied family choreography: Practices of control, care, and mundane creativity. New York: Routledge.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice (1962). Phenomenology of perception. London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Roald, Levin, K., & Køppe, S. (2018). Affective Incarnations: Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Challenge to Bodily Theories of Emotion. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 38(4), 205–218.

Magda Karjalainen, University of Oulu, magda.karjalainen@oulu.fi

Dancing with the dead swallows: butoh lessons for being/sensing with/in the world.

This performative contribution builds on my experiences with philosophy and practice of butoh – dance artform originally born in Japan in 1950s and 60s that has since spread and morphed globally. I return to the moment during one of the butoh workshops I participated in 2017, when we were asked to integrate into our dance performances two corpses of the swallows that were found in the dance studio that day. Through embodied writing, memory and movement work, I aim to re-generate this experience and its transformational nature. How did I choose to bring the bodies of the birds into my performance and why? How did the smell of disintegrating bodies affect my body and movement? What does returning to this encounter activate in me now? These are just some questions I will think with. I will also consider broader lessons that butoh-inspired creative engagements have offered me thus far, especially the continuous reminder to shift the focus from ‘how we move’ towards ‘what moves us’. I am interested in thinking/sensing what this shift means for my/our embodied being with/in the world. Through this contribution I hope to invite the audience into the space where we can imagine the body not so much as the location of senses, but rather as the sense-ei – our own personal master teacher of being/sensing, reaching beyond the domesticated, socioculturally conditioned body, which is one of the central premises of butoh.

The presentation draws on the doctoral dissertation of the author (to be defended in autumn 2022), which is an autoethnographic inquiry initiated by the desire to critically engage with questions of coloniality of knowledge as played out in international higher education in Finland. Living and writing the PhD was infused with butoh praxis as a way of reclaiming the unified body/mind/spirit modes of knowing and being.

Anna Varfolomeeva, Postdoctoral researcher, Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS), University of Helsinki, anna.varfolomeeva@helsinki.fi

Bodily Limits, Material Power: Women Miners’ Sensory Engagements with Stone in Northwestern Russia

This presentation focuses on the gender dimensions of the mining industry in Prionezhie district in Karelia (Northwestern Russia). It analyzes the formation of female workers’ gendered subjectivities through their close engagement with ornamental stones: gabbro-diabase and raspberry quartzite. In the Soviet-time stone quarries in Karelia, men were involved in explosive works and stone transportation, while women did manual work such as cutting, polishing, and loading the stone. Close sensory interactions with diabase and quartzite resulted in women’s vulnerability to stone-caused diseases such as silicosis. At the same time, women miners have developed strong emotional attitudes towards diabase and quartzite while engaging with stone on the daily basis. Female interviewees also expressed astonishment and pride over the limits their bodies could take when performing hard work. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the diabase and quartzite quarries were closed or privatized. Nowadays, the majority of men in Prionezhie still work in the quarries, while women are not involved in the mining industry anymore and experience increased unemployment. The presentation analyzes the changes in gendered mining narratives in Prionezhskii district. Using Karen Barad’s concept of “cyborgian agency” (Barad 2003), it reconsiders the relations between humans and materials in industrial settings and views them as the mutual transformation of interrelated actors.

Tina Mariane Krogh Madsen, Department of Art & Media, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (FI), tina.madsen@aalto.fi

Listening across bodies – an exercise in queering relations

This presentation is a collective exercise of awareness, where a facilitated listening session will be the main output. Through critical listening we will tune into the environment, our relations to it, and the bodies present, human and nonhuman. Grounded in concepts coming from the field of Deep Listening as proposed by composer Pauline Oliveros (2005) as well as the idea of becoming a multiplicity, which philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have actively applied through their collaborative practice of writing philosophy (1980/1987; 1972/2019; 1991/1994), we will enter a movement towards a mode of affective listening. Crucially, listening positionalities are considered through Dylan Robinson's decolonial sound studies (2020), and theorist Stacy Alaimo's transcorporeal framework (2010), as tools to engage the entanglements which happen with the environment. It is here important to consider the transversal ties between the ecologies which define us and the world (Guattari 1989), where thinking and listening across agency can move us into a framework beyond normative perception and into collective relation.


Alaimo, S. Bodily Natures: Science, Environment, and the Material Self. Indiana University Press, 2010.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari F. What is Philosophy? New York: Columbia University Press, 1991/1994.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980/1987.

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Hurley et al. London/New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 1972/2019.

Guattari, F. The Three Ecologies. London: Athelone Press, 1989/2000.

Oliveros, P. Deep Listening, A Composers Sound Practice, Lincoln: iUniverse, 2005.

Robinson, D. Hungry Listening, Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2020.