Every smell has a backstory. Smells, like any other senses, can evoke strong emotions. It is commonly mapped through its material associations. There cannot be a single word to describe smell of any city, let alone Delhi - the city of our engagement. In 2018, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art commissioned an art research project – ‘Smells of the city: Scents, Stench and Stink’. We engaged in participatory research methods like smell walks, storytelling, in-depth interviews, and conversations with various cross sections of workers who are engaged with production as well as erasure of smells (in the continuum from fragrance to stench). Along with our research team, we undertook exercises of smell mapping in different neighborhoods of the city. We shared our findings as part of an exhibition, ‘Smell Assembly’ in Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (https://www.knma.in/smell-assembly-0) in September-October 2019. In this presentation we talk about the complexities of ‘exhibiting’ smell in museum, limits of sensory ethnography and our struggle to write on/with smells.
Dr. Ishita Dey, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, South Asian University, New Delhi
Dr. Mohammed Sayeed, Assistant Professor, Centre for Writing Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat (Haryana), India