Sensory science research on taste. An ethnography of two laboratory experiments in Western Europe

Recent ethnographies from the anthropology of food and the senses have shown how moments in which people taste foods are shaped by scientific knowledge, methods and rationales. Building on approaches developed in science and technology studies, this paper offers an ethnography of the field to which this shaping power has been assigned: the scientific study of taste. Detailed tracing and analysis of two laboratory experiments on taste performed in laboratories in Western Europe brings out how both turn moments in which people taste into a bodily response. At the same time, since their technical set-ups address different societal problems and varying interest groups, they stage diverging versions: a perception versus a reaction to an exposure. The paper, thus, sheds light on how cultural and social norms, ideals, and practices shape the knowledge production about taste and its resulting effects.

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