Scent as a Weapon

Warning! Tear gas leads to addiction to the revolution... Mira Diab
“Warning! Tear gas leads to addiction to the revolution…” by Mira Diab. Features a photograph by Jakob Rubner. Buy a postcard print from Dikkeni, and proceeds will go to NGOs and artists in Lebanon. Also a reminder to donate to Impact Lebanon and/or Islamic Relief USA to support relief efforts in Beirut following the explosion.

Scent can be weaponized. It can be violent. I’ve been learning a lot from talks hosted by The Institute for Art and Olfaction—about the ways colonizers wipe out native smells and impose their own smellscapes, from Hsuan L. Hsu’s Experimental Scent Summit talk “Decolonizing Smell.” About the ways that the unfamiliar smells of an othered community are so often used to dehumanize and justify violence against them or to deny them access, from Nuri McBride’s class “Xenophobia: An Olfactive History of Otherness.” And from Aleesa Cohene, I learned about Skunk: scent made into a powerful weapon. It is touted as “less lethal” and more humane, but it also inflicts unique psychological, social, emotional, and neurological damage upon its targets. And of course, it maintains the cycle of othering—an entire group can be sprayed with the persistent stink of Skunk, marking them, robbing them of dignity, and potentially justifying further violence against them.

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