The Rise of Contemporary Spiritualism : Concepts and controversies in talking to the dead book cover
1st Edition

The Rise of Contemporary Spiritualism
Concepts and controversies in talking to the dead

ISBN 9780367595982
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
124 Pages

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Book Description

Talking to the dead and communication with 'the other side' is often presented as a taboo in an increasingly technological and medically advanced world. However, practices of spiritualism and mediumship continue to remain popular and in high demand within contemporary Western societies. This book analyses the practices of today’s mediums, who insist on standing at the threshold between life and death, interpreting signs and passing on communications, and asks how such concepts and practices are perceived by contemporary society. Using first-hand material gathered from alternative fairs, mediumistic congresses, séances, and interviews with both practitioners and clients, as well as thorough textual analysis, Anne Kalvig provides a clear overview of the various forms of consumption of mediumship in Western society and places these within a socio-cultural, religious and historical context. She also raises questions as to the controversies surrounding spiritualism and its representation and relationship with popular culture and the media. This book will be of interest to researchers in the field of sociology, religious studies, folklore, media studies and anthropology as well as to anyone interested in the upsurge of contemporary spiritualism, psychic phenomena and the paranormal.

Table of Contents

1. What is spiritualism?

2. Spiritualism’s birth and days of glory 

3. Communication with the dead today: forms, actors, organizations

4. Spiritualist messages and the appeal to women 

5. Spiritualism, shamanism, healing and popular culture – array and lattice

6. Controversies and delineations 

7. Table turning and other spiritualist challenges to the science of religion

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Anne Kalvig is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Stavanger, Norway.


'In this insightful book, Anne Kalvig studies spiritualism - communication with the dead. In spite of spiritualism being very visible in the contemporary world, and one of the elementary forms of the religious life, it has not been much researched. Kalvig illuminates the diversity of this practice and combines the perspectives of interpretation and explanation in an exciting and fruitful way.' - Ingvild Sælid Gilhus, University of Bergen, Norway

'This is the first thorough study of contemporary spiritualism/spiritism from a Religious Studies perspective. A long neglected subject, this is a very important book, covering the phenomenon historically as well as next to all contemporary aspects. A brilliant book.' - Liselotte Frisk, Dalarna University, Sweden