Research Centre is currently setting up a directory of researchers and
postgraduate students working on topics related to the Afterlife, the Spirit World, mediumship, trance, possession, shamanism, and religious experience, using anthropological methods. The ARC does not specifically endorse the researches presented in this open directory.
Add your research
If you are carrying on research in this field using anthropological or ethnographic methods and you would like your research to be included in this directory, please complete the form at the bottom of the page.
Tree Burial in Japan:
Forests, Kinship and Death (book in preparation) Tree burial was established in 1999 by
Chisaka Genpō, the head priest of a Zen Buddhist temple located near Sendai, northern Japan. For Tree-Burial, Chisaka has
replaced the conventional gravestone with a tree and uses vast woodlands as
cemeteries. Boret demonstrates that in a country where ancestral reverence
‘ideologically’ prevails, tree burial and other non-ancestral modes of burial
have become a means of negotiating new social orders. In this book, Boret shows
that tree burial represents a shift away from a ‘domo-centric’ towards an
‘eco-centric’ burial practice. Tree burial is based on self-ascribed
intentional bonds, personalised representation of death and a syncretic
approach to the afterlife, including ecological immortality.
Research: Ethnography of the Afterlife This is a library based piece of research drawing on ethnographic principles. I employ a methodology I call cognitive, empathetic engagement (http://www.box.net/shared/67rkx8z9ip). The aim of this methodology is to engage imaginatively with the data presented, whilst retaining a critical distance and comparative vision, in order to see 'what the world looks like' from a particular perspective. It does not demand any particular faith position but does assume an open-minded and comprehensive approach to the various sources used. My research draws on historical and contemporary material from Western and non-Western cultures.
Research: Experiences of Spontaneous Paranormal Phenomena The aim of this research is to learn more about paranormal events in everyday life. Originally, this survey was used to collect data for my Higher Degree dissertation at Monash University in Australia. I believe this was the first time that the Internet had been used to collect paranormal data on such a large scale. Over 4,000 volunteers participated in the original survey and the aim is to leave the survey open and online indefinitely so that it becomes the largest repository of paranormal self reports ever collated.
Research: Attitudes and Reactions towards Historical Fact in Relation to Perceived Paranormal Phenomena The research although interdisciplinary, primarily aims to examine the role of historical research within paranormal investigations and the search for evidence of an afterlife. It will examine how thoroughly this is undertaken and what sources are used in order to find corroborating evidence for paranormal phenomena, perceived experiences and confirmation of information given by mediums/psychics and 'sensitives'. Suggestion (including that where established mediums/psychics encourage others to develop their 'sensitive' abilities) and psychological factors will be covered along with paranormal investigation methods and their importance and relationship to historical fact. Of interest, are the reactions to actual historical fact to the interpretation of evidence put forward by an investigation into an allegedly haunted location.
Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology Bucharest Subject Area: Anthropology Fieldwork in: Rural areas from Wallachia (Southern Romania) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research: Water and Death. Funerary Rituals, Water Symbolism and the Structure of the Otherworld among the Romanian Peasants This book was published in Romanian in 2004 and represents the Ph.D. dissertation in History and Ethnology at the Lucian Blaga University Sibiu, Romania, obtained in 2004. The book analyzes the funerary rituals and songs performed in rural areas which aim to send the soul of the dead on the "right" way towards the otherworld. There is a strong fear that if these rituals are not performed then the dead will not be able to cross the water/border which separates the living and the dead worlds and will remain stuck in this world. One chapter also analyzes the witches' rituals still performed in rural areas that travel to the otherworld to "discuss" with the dead people and then come back and bring news to the living relatives. The approach of the book is ethnoarcheology (ethnographic research and historical and archaeological inquiry).
University of Montana, Helena College
of Technology Subject area: Anthropology Contact: email@example.com
Loci in Cross-Cultural Perspective: The "Goodness" or
"Badness" of Place and Landscape Research on paranormal aspects of place and
landscape: folklore, belief, and ancedotal experiences of what makes a place
"good" or "bad," cross-cultural examinations of geomantic
systems, animism and genius loci, landscape spirits, land-based hauntings
(human and nonhuman), archaeological connections and indigenous peoples.
Researcher has M.A. in Anthropology and an M.L.A. in Landscape Architecture
(Landscape History) from Iowa
and is an enrolled member of the Ioway Native American Indian tribe.
SOAS - University of London Subject area: Anthropology Fieldwork in: Singapore and Taiwan Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.4fabian.multiply.com
Research: Interactions with the Gods: A Comparative Study of Spirit Medium Practice in Singapore and Taiwan My research is a comparative study of spirit medium practice in Singapore and Taiwan. It touches on the invention of traditions, the creation of scared space and self-perpetuating mechanisms within the belief system. However, these remain side issues. My primary research focuses around discussions with mediums while they are trancing Heaven or Underworld deities, and the topics vary from the experience of possessing a human and interacting with the material world to the nature of the soul, reincarnation, past life, afterlife and the spirit world. I take a hands-on approach and have tried trancing a deity in a temple, but was only half successful (the deity entered my body, but my consciousness wouldn’t leave), so I am preparing for another attempt. I also practice a form of non-invasive mediumship known as ling-dong with my ling-ji focus groups in both Singapore and Taiwan where the practitioner allows deities to interact with their spirit resulting in spontaneous movements, hands on healing and speaking in tongues.
Altered States of Consciousness in Contemporary Trance & Physical
Mediumship The aim of this research is to gain an
understanding of the role of anomalous experience (e.g. paranormal, religious
or spiritual experience) in the development and maintenance of belief in a
supernatural order of reality. Paying particular attention to the role of
trance experiences. The research will utilise an ethnographic methodology
involving participant observation at a non-denominational spiritualist
home-circle in Bristol.
In-depth interviews will be conducted with members of the group as a means to
elicit information regarding the types of experience that have led them to
regularly participate in seances and mediumship development circles. Particular
emphasis will be placed on the the role that altered states of consciousness
play in the biographies of trance mediums and their role in the development of
spiritualist groups and belief systems.
University of Stavanger Subject area: Religious Studies Fieldwork in: Norway Contact: email@example.com
Research: Talking to the Dead: Concepts, Practices and Controversies Anne Kalvig has been studying contemporary spiritualism in Norway and Nordic countries for a few years, publishing articles and chapters in anthologies about spiritualism and mediumship, intersections of mediumship, shamanism, and therapy, mediumship and the media, notions of death etc. She is currently working on a monograph on contemporary spiritualism in Norway.
Research: Social Organisation of Physical Mediumship: Current Accounts
The research focuses upon the 'accounts' of physical mediums in relation to their perceptions of mediumship and associated phenomena. Based upon 'sense making' and 'definition of the situation'. The research takes a Micro sociological, Symbolic Interactionist approach to the lived experience of mediums; both by the use of unstructured intervies and by participant observation of modern day seance phenomena. The researcher is a retired medical sociologist with lifelong interest in survival research
Research: Neurobiology and Parapsychology of ASCs, Psi and Entity Encounters Taking a parapsychological perspective primarily, but using ethnography and participant-observation alongside experimental methods. "Field Parapsychology and Paranthropology" would best describe it. Focus of study is on shamanic practice and ASCs, but looking into psi, mediumship, entity encounters, and other anomlous phenomena (e.g., synesthesia). Research has centred around the use of psychedelic sacramentals (e.g., ayahuasca, mescaline cacti, etc) and what this may reveal about neurobiology of ASCs and anomalous experience.
Research: The Road Home: A Study of Death and Salvationary Beliefs and Practices in Modern Ireland My study involves an in dept analysis of beliefs and practices relating to the afterlife in contemporary Ireland. Historically religion has been the primary normative discourse in bring meaning to death, dying and loss. Processes of secularisation within modern Ireland have weakened the ability of the institutional Catholic Church to bring meaning the death and loss and mediating Irish individuals relationship with the sacred and transcendent. Irish religiosity has subsequently undergone dramatic transformation as people are left to develop their own personal path towards salvation and develop a more personal, private understanding of the nature of life, death, and life everlasting. My research maps this changing landscape and attempts to uncover how the contemporary Irish conceptualise the world beyond.
Research: A Revised Epistemology for Spirit Release Therapy According to the Conceptual Framework of F.W.H. Myers My research aims to provide a revised epistemology for Spirit Release Therapy that is grounded in the conceptual framework of 19th century researcher F.W.H. Myers who sought a scientific method to verify that man has a soul that survives bodily death. The revised epistemology enables the subjective experience of spirit possession to be accomodated into a viable scientific framework, and provides a foundation for further research into spirit possession experiences and clinical resolutions that bridge medical and religious interventions.
Research: Evidence-Based Practice Applied to Cases of Spirit Attachment Written, audio and visual data from case files can contribute to the scientific study of the aetiology and phenomenology of spirit attachment and release by the use of the principles of evidence-based medicine. It is anticipated that such case files may be stored in an archive similar to those of the Alister Hardy Trust that may be shared and accessed by all who have a serious interest in researching such cases. The project proposal is in its infancy, and it is hoped that practitioners, clinicians and researchers will contribute comments and suggestions on how to progress with this initiative.
Telepathic Diagnosis & Remote Spirit Release Therapy Targeting specifically those diseases of the nervous system that are deemed by medical science to be incurable and of 'mysterious' aetiology, this research aims to utilise the clairvoyant abilities of spiritualist mediums, neo-shamans and others with the gift of altered state 'remote viewing'. These remote viewers, also known as 'scanners' are invited to give a diagnosis, a cause and a treatment protocol. The objective of the research is to introduce a method of diagnosis and treatment modality that can be integrated with institutionalised medicine
Research: Spirit Mediumship in the Vale do Amanhecer My research investigates the experience of spirit mediums in the Brazilian religion of the Vale do Amanhecer (Valley of the Dawn), looking at the ways in which mediumship informs the person’s life-world and sense of Self. Focussing on learning as embodied process, I explore how through the practice of mediumship spiritual knowledge and religious principles are transmitted, experienced, and used by the mediums in their everyday lives. This research is funded by the Read-Tuckwell Fund, by The Spalding Trust, and it received the RAI Sutasoma Award 2012.
University of Wales Trinity Saint David Subject area: Anthropology Fieldwork: Brazil Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Research: Discourse about Spirit Possession, Trance and Mediumship My current research examines spirit possession and trance. I have conducted fieldwork in Sao Paulo, Brazil, among Afro-Brazilian religions and spiritism/kardicism. The aim is to gain further understanding of the discourse about "being possessed" from a Brazilian perspective.
Excavations on Haunted American Civil War Battlefields I conduct non-evasive
"excavations" on selected multi-layered battlefields. Recent work on
the Antietam battlefield, site of the
bloodiest day of combat in American history, has unearthed past interactive
cultural presence. This was achieved through site/space-specific performances
that resonate with past I.M.P. (inherent military probability) behaviour in
specific spaces on the battlefield. These spaces are framed by K.O.C.O.A., a
military terrain strategy that was utilized during the Civil War. Framed in
this way, and mediated through participatory acts that were contextual to each
of these spaces, various material "subjects" became present. What
emerged is a para-physical consciousness that continues to practice a
particular cultural life (the "culture of war") in the absence of a
landscape that continues its past history.
Belief and Experiences in a Reportedly Haunted Location This study will examine the correlation
between transliminality, belief and anomalous experiences in a reportedly
haunted location over an extended period of time. Individuals will be asked to
complete the following question sets: Paranormal Belief Scale, EXIT and
Transliminality Scale. Individuals will also note where experiences occurred in
the location. All data will be statistically analyzed to determine what if any
Research: Afterlife Beliefs, Near-Death Experience, and Shamanism in Indigenous Religions My current research (funded by a grant from the Perrott-Warrick Fund administered by Trinity College, Cambridge) examines the relationship between afterlife conceptions and conceptually-related anomalous experiences in small-scale societies worldwide. The purpose is to determine the extent to which the conceptions are consistent (a) cross-culturally; (b) with culturally-embedded shamanic ‘other world’ experiences; and (c) with the spontaneous, evidently universal near-death experience (NDE). It will test the conclusions reached in my earlier study that afterlife beliefs cross-culturally are formed not only by a combination of culture-specific socio-cultural and environmental factors, and universal cognitive factors, but also universal anomalous experiential factors.
University of Kent, Exeter, Canterbury Christ Church Subject area: Interdisciplinary Fieldwork in: UK Contact: email@example.com Website: www.cosmology-divination.com
Making Sense of the Paranormal: a Platonic Approach to Research Methods My research is interdisciplinary, concerned
with applying the range of epistemological modalities intrinsic to the
neoplatonic worldview to paranormal phenomena and experiences. I emphasise the
roles of the cognitive imagination and intellectual intuition in the perception
of anomalous or visionary events and discuss the limitations of a purely
rational or objective stance when faced with the super-rational nature of
University of Bath, Centre for Death & Society, University of Bath Subject area: Sociology Fieldwork in: UK Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.bath.ac.uk/cdas/people
Angels as a resource in bereavement I am interested in how angels are used as a resource in mourning. Having analysed how online mourners for a celebrity (Jade Goody) constructed her as an angel*, I am now looking at how those mourning an intimate use the concept of angel. My research is thus into how the content of afterlife beliefs interacts with processes of bereavement - two topics usually kept in separate research silos. * T.Walter 'Angels Not Souls', Religion, 2011, 41(1): 29-51