The Sensuous Social Supernatural

Abby Day

in Believing in Belonging

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199577873
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731143 | DOI:
The Sensuous Social Supernatural

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Belief narratives relating to supernatural or paranormal events were common in the interviews, irrespective of informants’ religious or spiritual beliefs: even atheists sense ghosts. The findings and cross-cultural examples explored here contrast with other work in the field where such experiences are described, but insufficiently analysed, as common, folk, invisible or implicit religion. Scholars in the study of religion are often ill-equipped with appropriate concepts and terminology, mainly because they often seek to classify such experiences into different realms, such as sacred/profane or this world/other world. Those divisions do not seem to be significant, if they are apparent at all, to the informants who experience such phenomena. The majority of those experiences occur through bereavement, where belief narratives describing the experience of ‘sensing’ deceased relatives suggest a self-conscious desire and performative strategy to continue their belongings.Many people do not need religion or God to mediate those experiences, prompting the author to analyse the experiences as sensual, emotional, cognitive, self-mediated, and performative, produced in specific social contexts and explained with reference to longings for belongings. They are frequently supported by collective, social interpretations. In illustrating how informants experienced transcendent, non-material feelings and sensations in their ‘here and now’, transcendence is relocated to a non-spatial, temporal, social realm. That shift is made possible by ‘believing through bereaving’, supported by collective memory and desires for continuing relationships.

Keywords: supernatural; paranormal; belief; belonging; performative; transcendent

Chapter.  7143 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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