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The paranormal and the politics of truth: A discursive perspective

Northcote, Jeremy (2001) The paranormal and the politics of truth: A discursive perspective. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Topics such as psychic powers, flying saucers and ghosts have become popular in the media and with the general public in recent years. This thesis is a sociological examination of the controversies that surround such "paranormal" topics. In it, I trace the development of these controversies from the medieval Church's crusade against the "occult" and Enlightenment intellectuals' condemnation of "pseudoscience," to the disputes that collectively constitute the contemporary "paranormal debate."

A major aim of this thesis is to provide a sociological account of the processes that underlie this debate. Through a detailed examination of the players, issues, strategies and underlying factors that constitute the politics of disputes over the paranormal, I develop a model that shows the debate as being inextricably bound to wider discursive formations that underlie Western thinking generally. I also show how participants involved in such disputes serve as vehicles for the expression and proliferation of these wider discourses, and how the debate as a whole functions in terms of processes of wider socio-cultural continuity and change.

In illuminating the relationship between the paranormal debate and wider discursive and socio-cultural processes, my study questions the view of many social analysts who regard the paranormal issue as somewhat marginal and trivial. In fact, I argue that the social analysis of this area is itself so deeply embedded within the wider politics of truth surrounding the paranormal subject, that analysts themselves are often unwitting players in the politics of the debate. In this respect, my study also offers a critique of the interests and objectives of social inquiry, particularly its claims to objectivity and neutrality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Supervisor(s): Macbeth, Jim and Helms, Malissa Pearl
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