Geography & Environment Publications


Sensing Changes: Technologies, Environments, and the Everyday, 1953-2003

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Our bodies are archives of sensory knowledge and laboratories in which to retool our senses and practices in response to changing circumstances. If global environmental changes continue at an unsettling pace, how will we make sense of the cascade of new normals, where the air, land, and water around us are no longer familiar?

Joy Parr, one of Canada’s premier historians, tackles this question by exploring situations in the recent past when state-driven megaprojects and regulatory and environmental changes forced people to cope with radical transformations in their work and home environments. The construction of dams, chemical plants, nuclear reactors, and military training grounds; new patterns in seasonal rains; and developments in animal husbandry altered the daily lives of ordinary people and essentially disrupted their embodied understandings of the world. Familiar worlds were transformed so thoroughly that residents no longer knew the place where they lived or, by implication, who they were.

Sensing Changes and the conjoint website at, which features creative, analytical works that further deepen the book’s interpretations, make a key contribution to environmental history and the emerging field of sensory history. This study offers a timely and prescient perspective on how humans make sense of the world in the face of rapid environmental, technological, and social change. (From online book description)


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