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Spring Symposium on UR and Community Engagement has ended
Tuesday, April 24 • 10:35am - 10:55am
Seeing is Believing: Paranormal Belief Construction in the American South

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Western culture is obsessed with the saying “seeing is believing.” Dominant groups in America put a lot of weight into rationality and scientific thinking in comparison to other embodied and spiritual forms of knowledge. Why is it, then, that paranormal belief is so pervasive in the American imagination? In fact, belief in some form of paranormal--ranging from traditional Christian ideas of resurrection and Virgin Birth to aliens and clairvoyance--is the norm, with 90% of Southern Focus Poll (SPF) respondents believing in one or more forms (Rice, 2003). The notion of ghosts and the paranormal “violate a number of binaries” that dominate Western culture: life or death, past or present, body or soul. (Baker and Bader, 2014). Rather than “or,” the paranormal exists within the and, where life and death are deeply intertwined. The paranormal subsist somewhere between conventional time and space, and belief in such leads to a “culturally powerful position” wherein participants can “shatter” the binary constraints of reality (Baker and Bader, 2014). The construction of this belief, however, varies across social locations. For this project, I will examine how various socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious groups interact with these binaries. In other words, how do differing groups know what they know about the paranormal? What influences paranormal belief? How is this knowledge constructed, and how do different groups perpetuate that knowledge? How do sociology and epistemology interact here?

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Tuesday April 24, 2018 10:35am - 10:55am
236 Zageir Hall