Being in the City: The Sociology of Urban Experiences


  • Michael Ian Borer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Sociology, University of Nevada
    • Correspondence address: Michael Ian Borer, Department of Sociology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-5033, USA. E-mail:

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Though urban sociologists tend to study the growth and development of cities, there is a venerable yet often marginalized tradition that addresses the embodied experience of urban life. Studies of urban experiences have recently begun to flourish due, in part, to the rise of sensory scholarship. Recognizing the connections between urban experiences and sensory stimulations provides nuanced ways to explore the actions and interactions between individuals and their relationships to and with urban places. Relying on a diverse literature of recent studies that focus on cities as dense sensory environments, this article shows the significance of studying city life at the experiential and sensory levels. First, a few seminal early works are discussed, with specific emphasis on Georg Simmel. Then, each of the five bodily senses and their correlated sensescapes – seescapes, soundscapes, smellscapes, tastescapes, and touchscapes – are presented in order to show individuals and groups use their senses to experience and make sense of the city. The article concludes with a brief discussion of methods and few suggestions to encourage future analyses of the everyday embodied and emplaced practices and interpretations of being in the city.