Can we touch the past?

The Sensory Experience of a Black Leather Ball

  • Nicole Anderson University of Edinburgh
Keywords: past, present, sensory engagement, authenticity, materiality


This ethnographic essay reflects on the process of the past coming into the present. In particular, it questions the ethics and politics of which pasts are appropriate to encounter.  It creates tensions between which pasts are considered real or authentic, which questions the ownership of pasts we are not permitted to feel. It suggests that when we encounter and touch things that are not ours, we feel a connection to an Othered past.  This “Othering” risks prescribing an Orientalist, colonial narrative. It concludes that perhaps to meaningfully encounter the past, we must recognise that the only authentic pasts are our own. 

How to Cite
Anderson, N. (2018). Can we touch the past?. Re:Think - a Journal of Creative Ethnography, 1(1), 2-6. Retrieved from
Academic Essays