Society and Identity
One of the key debates in anthropology of the senses/sensory anthropology is whether one should ground his/her work on the cultural embeddedness of senses, or rather focus on the dynamic processes within which particular sense-skills emerge through interaction with the surrounding environment. This presentation is an attempt to think through this question by way of a case study of palliative care in a home for elders in Sri Lanka, with a special focus on the bodily sensation of the care-givers, including myself, that was experienced during interaction with the senile, dying residents. In conditions of scarce resources, floor staffs’ indifferent attitude to frail, dying residents seemed to be a strategy to cope with their overwhelming daily chores. However, close look at their emotional/sensuous life revealed to me that responsiveness and sensibilities towards the suffering of residents provided condition for ethical relations with the dying ‘other’, in various, unique ways. By describing such sensuous interactions, and subsequent modes of interpretation that was accorded to these sensations, I will argue that in order to appreciate emerging care relations in such contexts as institutions, it is necessary to take into account both the plasticity of our sensorial experiences and the practical works of cultural categories which give form to such experiences.