Sensuous multiculturalism: emotional landscapes of inter-ethnic living in Australian suburbia

Amanda Wise*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Citations (Scopus)


Every day, people from different backgrounds mix together, whether by design or necessity, in our multicultural neighbourhoods and cities. This article explores how senses, sensibilities, habitus and affects influence quotidian intercultural encounters in culturally diverse cities. The article is based upon ethnographic research in an Australian suburb which has seen large-scale Chinese migration to the area in recent years and experienced the associated rapid changes to the shops along the local high street. Focusing on a range of sites or 'contact zones' along the suburban high street, the paper explores the notion of cross-cultural habitus, in particular the sensuous and affective dimensions of what I term the 'haptic habitus'. It then examines the sensuous and embodied modes of being that mediate intercultural interactions between long-term Anglo-Celtic elderly residents in the area and newly arrived Chinese immigrants and their associated urban spaces. Ranging through the senses, from sight, smell, sound and the haptic system, the article reflects upon how the senses, affect, habitus, nostalgia and memory articulate with localised experiences of diversity. I develop the notion of 'sensuous multiculturism'-which foregrounds embodied experience in this scenario of cultural difference-and go on to argue that the dis-synchronisation of senses, embodied place-memory and habitus contribute to some forms of intercultural anxiety and everyday racism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-937
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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