P077
Ethnography of the invisible

Convenors:
Susanne Ådahl (University of Turku)
Vibeke Steffen (University of Copenhagen)
Marja-Liisa Honkasalo (University of Turku. Finland)
Discussant:
Professor Emerita Vieda Skultans (University of Bristol)
Location:
S-116
Start time:
2 August, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

The panel aims to discuss theoretical and methodological possibilities of studying human experience that is at the limit of our understanding; experiences of a so called "supranatural", "paranormal", "extraordinary", or "otherworldly" nature. How to study experience of something that does not exist?

Long abstract:

The aim of the panel is to discuss the theoretical and methodological possibilities of studying human experience that is at the limit of our understanding or perhaps beyond it. In European countries people report frequently having had experiences of the "supranatural", "paranormal", "extraordinary", or "otherworldly"; that which in the classical anthropological conception would be termed magic. Anthropological research shows that adult belief in magic is still high in contemporary societies. Due to rapid social change and a consequent increased secularisation institutions of modern society, such as the church, are presently lacking or searching for an interpretative space in which to deal with boundary experience. In anthropological research, there is a lack of unambiguous concepts to describe or understand these phenomena. The notions when applied are problematic, skewed, and largely stigmatizing, which consequently affects the everyday life situation of people reporting having had these kinds of experiences. This subjugated knowledge is often written off as madness and is highly stigmatising. In this panel we ask: how to study the invisible; presence (visual, auditory, tactile) that is experienced convincingly as being true, but that is weird? How to study experience that is elusive, dream-like, subtle or simply impossible to define with words; experience of something that does not exist? We welcome submissions for papers on topics that include, but are not limited to: • Boundary experience/ sensory experiences and expressions • Contemporary experiences of magic • Methodological and epistemological challenges of researching boundary experiences