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Name: Ivan Marković

PhD: Critical Theory and Cultural Studies

Provisional Thesis Title: Hazy atmospheres: a sensory history of smoking and vaping, c. 1880 - present 


Thesis Description:

This thesis is as much about smoking as it is about atmosphere. Thus, its overall aim is twofold. In the first instance, it tells a story of smoking at specific moments in 20th century British history. Specifically, it is a story refracted through the lens of atmosphere to tease out and foreground the feelings, senses, rhythms and affects that otherwise remain merely a backdrop in more conventional historical accounts. Second, it is an epistemological experiment in thinking the past atmospherically. In other words, it seeks to address the question of how we might go about recovering, from the historical record, something as hazy, fleeting and potentially intangible as an atmosphere.

Consequently, the same bifold aim is replicated in the individual chapters. Each chapter looks at a particular historical moment: the turn of the 20th century (chapter IV), the Second World War (chapter V), the 1980s (chapter VI) and lastly, the mid-2000s (chapter VII), to unearth and buoy some of that atmospheric haziness, all too often consigned to the background of everyday experience. Parallel to this, each of these case studies proposes a different methodological attempt of thinking the past atmospherically by suggesting four separate routes: materiality, time, conviviality and space, respectively. Since storytelling is the overarching method for achieving this, it is only fair to characterise these four routes as narrative vehicles, set to carry, sustain and enable past fragments, otherwise ephemeral, to be followed and pieced together into atmospheres of the past.

The first case study (chapter IV) employs as its guiding thread materiality. Through a biography of the smoking jacket, this chapter aims to explore the atmospherics of gender and class at the turn of the 20th century. Specifically, it looks at how following the materialities of the smoking jacket allows for a surfacing of the olfactory, haptic and rhythm and how these entanglements, alongside the emergence of the machine rolled cigarette and the subsequent democratisation and feminisation of smoking, led to atmospheric disturbances that both reflected and subverted wider gender norms.
Time and temporality is the second narrative vehicle through which atmospheres of smoking will be traced in the second case study (chapter V), which focuses on the Second World War and two sites specifically, the frontline and the Home Front. Taking boredom as a way into thinking about time, in the first case, the chapter investigates what kinds of atmospheres were evoked in the long moments when fighting ceased and the aberrance of killing men gave way to the ordinariness of killing time. Second, it looks at smoking as part of a wider practice of ‘mood management’ on the Home Front (Highmore, 2017). More than just propaganda, this ‘morale work’ sought to orchestrate a particular set of atmospheres that would be conducive to the success of the war effort by minimising the psychic and material damage done by the incessant aerial bombardment of Britain during the first years of the 1940s.
The third case study (chapter VI) which is situated in the 1980s takes as its guiding thread conviviality, understood simply as being-together, to investigate the social relations between smokers and non-smokers at a time when evidence on the harmfulness of second-hand smoke confirms that smoking atmospheres are, quite literally, toxic. With smoking still ubiquitous in everyday life, this chapter examines how particular sites of being-together, such as the workplace and spaces of commensality like the pub or restaurant, became centre grounds for a push against toxic atmospheres. Concurrently, it looks at how this aerial toxicity produced different forms of conviviality and the ways the elemental translated into the social, as relations between smokers and non-smokers became increasingly characterised by anxiety, enmity and acrimony.
Lastly, the fourth’s (chapter VII) concern is space. The introduction of the comprehensive smoking ban in public spaces in 2006/7 redrew the geographies of smoking which in turn redefined the atmospheres… [STILL THINKING ABOUT THIS ONE]

This is not to say that these four different experimental narrative devices could not be put to work interchangeably or that they should be restricted to their respective case studies. Rather, they are mobilised as guiding threads through which a specific moment in the 20th century history of smoking is narrated whilst simultaneously, at the level of the thesis as a whole, emphasising that atmospheres are ontologically capacious phenomena.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Dr Tracey Potts (University of Nottingham)

Dr James Mansell (University of Nottingham)


Book Reviews


  • n/a

Conferences & Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


  • Sensing past atmospheres; a green silk kimono and the sensory politics of smoking c.1880 – 1930.  - conference paper presented at AAG 2018 in New Orleans, US, 10-14 April


  • 'Locating selfish stinkers'; smoking and everyday sensory histories - conference paper presented at 80th Anniversary Mass Observation conference at University of Sussex, Brighton, 10-17 July

  • Smoking, agency and the everyday; towards a more-than-human rhythmanalysis - paper presented at University of Nottingham, Health Humanities' Early Bird research group, 19 July

Other Research Interests:

  • sensory history, material culture, (affective) atmospheres, rhythmanalysis, ethnography, smoking, vaping




University email address:

LinkedIn: Ivan Marković

Twitter: @hazyhistories

Other Social Media: 




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