Tangled, tangy, microbial threads: Textural methods for rendering past, present and future microbial sensory memories

Anna Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

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How to render sensory memory? In this article, I speculate on the possibilities of textural methods which attend closely to textile forms, specifically embroidery, as a way to explore this enduring question in multimodal research. To open up concerns about bodily relations between humans, as well as the more-than-human bodies we share worlds with, this article focuses on sensory memory fragments of encounters with the microbial conglomerations of sourdough bread starter. I offer three bubbling, sour-sweet texts: 1) an archived auto-ethnographic account of learning how to make a sourdough starter; 2) a social-media inspired piece on the sticky home archives of quarantine; and 3) a future speculative citizen science project. These fragments co-exist with microbes I have embroidered on ancient linens. From the tangy strings of sourdough histories, and the tangled threads in cloth I draw concrete methodological suggestions for new directions in textural research projects, such as material fieldnotes and crafted data. In doing so, I join other authors in this special issue in the call for multimodal forms of ethnographic storytelling about sensory memory, in this case one that attends not only to messy entanglements with bodies but also their textural, material, layered histories extending into the depth of their surfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-280
JournalMultimodality & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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