Talking with the dead: spirit mediumship, affect and embodiment in Stoke-on-Trent
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Wiley for Institute of British Geographers / Royal Geographical Society
© 2017 The Authors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers). This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
While Spiritualism has attracted much attention in other disciplines, geographers have largely ignored it. However, we agree with Holloway (2006 Enchanted spaces: the séance, affect, and geographies of religion Annals of the Association of American Geographers 96 182–7) that Spiritualism presents conceptual challenges that make it worthy of more attention. As Holloway suggests, the themes of affect, embodiment and materiality are particularly helpful in exploring religious experiences. The focus of this paper is on the practice and experience of spirit mediumship in a Spiritualist setting. In mediumship, a specific challenge is to materialise and embody spirit such that spirit communication feels personal and rings true. For us, this suggests that mediumship is routinely successful both because it can produce accurate messages, which are judged empirically, and also because it produces what we call affectual truths, which are judged tacitly on whether they feel right or not. To account for this, we introduce the idea of intermediumship to describe interactions in the space in-between the medium and the congregation. It is through this space in-between that the affects associated with mediumship emerge, are experienced and are verified. Rather than seeing spirit communication as somehow enchanted or extraordinary, we assert that talking with the dead is predicated on the ordinariness of the experience: that is, that talking with the dead is emblematic of affect and embodiment in everyday life.
The research for this paper was funded by the AHRC Grant AH/L015447/1.The project was assisted, administratively and financially, by The Open University's Faculty of Health and Wellbeing and the OpenSpace Research Centre.
This is the final version of the article. Available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Published online 16 October 2017