Every week thousands of people in Europe and the USA consult psychic practitioners. Communication is crucial to the performance of psychic powers in a range of settings. Psychic practitioners use language to demonstrate their powers, whether they are reporting the words of their spirit contacts or interpreting the spread of Tarot cards. Their clients also accept or reject this information through talk. This book presents the first sustained study of the verbal interaction between the various kinds of psychic practitioners and their clients. Using conversation analysis, Robin Wooffitt examines the structure of the interaction, focusing on the ways in which psychic practitioners and their clients establish the authenticity of the claimed paranormal powers. Adopting a neutral standpoint towards the status of the claims of psychic practitioners, the book raises important issues about the role of social science in understanding the activities of psychic practitioners and other kinds of parapsychological phenomena. This highly original study will appeal to students and scholars of discourse studies, and to sociologists interested in conversation analysis. It is written in a style accessible to non-specialists, and will also interest parapsychologists and social scientists studying psychic phenomena and the paranormal.
’Wooffitt’s superb study shows that the discursive strategies used by psychic practitioners are a great deal subtler than we realised, and makes a convincing case for the use of social scientific methods in parapsychology.’ Peter Lamont, University of Edinburgh, UK ’Fascinating and absorbing. This richly satisfying book will appeal to all those intrigued by the workings of language in interaction, and anyone who has ever asked themselves: how, exactly, do psychics do what they do?’ Charles Antaki, Loughborough University, UK ’…a fascinating and convincingly argued account of psychics and sitters collaborating verbally to establish and sustain the psychic’s authenticity…I recommend this book to anyone wanting to understand how apparently paranormal phenomena are portrayed and sustained by those involved in the interaction. It is also a useful contribution to social scientific methodology.’ Sociology ’…[provides] a thought-provoking discussion of the discourse of both private and popular psychic practitioners…an engagingly written and significant addition to the ongoing discussion of identity in interaction…the agnostic approach used by Wooffitt enables a particularly fascinating discussion of psychic-sitter discourse.’ Journal of Sociolinguists
Contents: Psychic practitioners in contemporary society; Psychic practitioners and social science; Analysing the organization of successful demonstrations of paranormal cognition; The collaborative production of paranormal cognition; The inferential production of identity in mediums' discourse; Trouble management; The spirits and trouble management; Communication and anomalous experiences; Appendix; Index.