Lisa Phillips will present "Minding the Smell of the Weather: A ‘Whether’ Phenomenon"
Abstract: While some argue that human activities impact weather patterns, others contend that the earth has natural cycles that are not fundamentally changed by human action. I agree with Katherine Hayles’s argument that “an observer makes a cut … to tame the noise of the world by introducing a distinction, which can be understood in its elemental sense as a form, as boundary between inside and outside” (Hayles 137, my emphasis). Drawing upon Katherine Hayles’s articulation, I focus on the agency of odor to transform perceptions as supported by research that links smells with “intersensory” perceptions of place, space, ethics, and politics (Connolly). Surely, as Rosi Braidotti asserts, it is right to ground work in service to “biopower,”and underscore aims to expand, enmesh, and complicate conversations about “life” and “matter-ialism” in order to consider a more nuanced view of political and ethical issues that sway intergenerational responsibilities (Braidotti 201; 212; 215).
Because the Salton Sea—the largest inland body of water in California—emitted an extremely noxious odor and unusual weather patterns drove the scent north to Los Angeles and beyond, millions of people were forced to notice the environmental degradation of a specific ecosystem by human and non-human activities. The object of this presentation is the Salton Sea’s odor on September 10, 2012, and the rhetoricity surrounding olfactory perception of the environment is its subject. After Sarah Ahmed, I seek sense making and rhetorical navigation as I notice the ways in which “orientations matter” to material living bodies affected by current rhetoric surrounding climate change. I will also examine how an independent documentary film, The Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, focuses on the sea’s odor, as the film provides additional intersensory input to contextualize the complexity of the situation. The film is a hybrid genre that combines visual anthropology with a “stylized aesthetic” in order to move away from traditional “nature” documentaries.
Lisa Phillips is a second-year doctoral candidate in English Studies at Illinois State University. Her area of concentration is rhetorical theory, and her research interests include sensory rhetorics, American Indian rhetorics and literature, contemporary material ecocriticism, and feminism. Phillips received her master’s degree in Visual Culture from the School of Art at Illinois State in 2010. Her most recent presentation, at the 2012 Midwest Modern Language Association conference, addressed repatriation of American Indian objects to indigenous communities. Her presentation at the 2011 College Composition and Communication Feminist workshop discussed connections between language, smell, and trauma. Phillips’ 2012 publication in the journal "J.A.C." reviewed "American Iconographic: National Geographic, Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination" by Stephanie L. Hawkins.