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 Featured Title
Sensing Changes
Technologies, Environments, and the Everyday, 1953-2003
Joy Parr  

$87.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 12/15/2009
ISBN: 978-0-7748-1723-3    

$34.95 Paperback
Release Date: 7/1/2010
ISBN: 978-0-7748-1724-0    

304 Pages

Nature | History | Society series


About the Book

Shortlisted, 2015 François-Xavier Garneau Medal, Canadian Historical Association

Winner, 2010 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Winner, 2011 Sidney Edelstein Prize, The Society for the History of Technology

Shortlisted, 2010 Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association

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.

About the Author(s)

Joy Parr is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Technology, Culture, and Risk in the Geography Department at the University of Western Ontario. developer Jon van der Veen is a new media designer and Ph.D. candidate in Communication Studies at Concordia University.

Table of Contents

Foreword / Graeme Wynn
The Megaprojects New Media Series / Jon van der Veen

1 Introduction: Embodied Histories
2 Place and Citizenship: Woodlands, Meadows, and a Military Training Ground: The NATO Base at Gagetown
3 Safety and Sight: Working Knowledge of the Insensible: Radiation Protection in Nuclear Power Plants, 1962-92
4 Movement and Sound: A Walking Village Remade: Iroquois and the St. Lawrence Seaway
5 Time and Scale: A River Becomes a Reservoir: The Arrow Lakes and the Damming of the Columbia
6 Smell and Risk: Uncertainty along a Great Lakes Shoreline: Hydrogen Sulphide and the Production of Heavy Water
7 Taste and Expertise: Local Water Diversely Known: The E. coli Contamination in Walkerton 2000 and After
8 Conclusion: Historically Specific Bodies

Select Bibliography


"Historian and geographer Joy Parr has written an extraordinary book...Sensing Changes will make important contributions to the field of sensory studies and that other readers, approaching their own topics in diverse locations and from various disciplinary backgrounds, will, like this reviewer, find edification and inspiration in the pages of this remarkable book."
- Deborah Davis Jackson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies, Earlham College, Senses & Society, Vol. 6, Issue 2

"The New Media component of Sensing Changes is a wonderful illustration of how we can and should engage our students in multi-sensory ways and how we, as historians, must move beyond privileging the written word.
- Lisa Rumiel, McMaster University, Left History, 15.1, March 2011

Joy Parr is a wonderful storyteller, and the tales in this book are as harrowing -- dealing, as they do, with displacement, danger and death -- as they are engaging and edifying. I was riveted by her descriptions of the disruption visited on the social and sensory lives of the people affected by these mega-projects, and by the resiliency they manifested in the face of radical environmental changes.
-- David Howes, Professor of Anthropology, Concordia University and author of Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory

In this stunningly creative book, Joy Parr asks how twentieth-century ‘mega-projects’ -- dams, power plants, canals, military bases -- have transformed local people’s most intimate experience of themselves and their environments. The examples are Canadian but the insights are global. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how our modern technology builds our very bodies.
-- Conevery Bolton Valencius is the author of the 2002 prize-winning book, The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land

Sample Chapter

Front Matter and Chapter One

Related Topics

Environmental Studies

Other Ways To Order

In Canada, order your copy of Sensing Changes from UTP Distribution at:

UTP Distribution
5201 Dufferin Street
Toronto, Ontario
M3H 5T8

Phone orders: 1(800)565-9523 or (416)667-7791
Fax orders: 1(800)221-9985 or (416)667-7832

Ordering information for customers outside Canada

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