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

The Rise of Contemporary Spiritualism

Concepts and controversies in talking to the dead, 1st Edition

By Anne Kalvig


118 pages

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pub: 2016-10-04
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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.


'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

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

About the Author

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

About the Series

Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time

Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time

Eventually we all die - and we experience death head-on, when someone close to us dies. This series, Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time, identifies this fact as constitutive of the origin of human conceptions of time. Time permeates everything, but except for time itself all things are perishable - yet, it is only through the perishable world of things and bodies that we sense time. Bringing together scholarly work across a range of disciplines, the series explores the fact that human experiences and conceptions of time inherently hinge on the material world, and that time as a socially experienced phenomenon cannot be understood as separate from material form or expression. As such, it departs from a persistent current within Western thinking. Philosophy, biology and physics, among other disciplines, have studied time as an essential, ethereal and abstract concept. In the same way, death has often been conceived of in abstract and sometimes transcendental terms as occupying one extreme margin of human life. As an alternative, this series examines the ways in which bodily death and material decay are central points of reference in social life, which offer key insights into human perceptions of time.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General