“In other cultures, therefore, experiences such as telepathic communication between two individuals, predicting the future in dreams, seeing the dead reanimate, witnessing an apparition, communicating with spirits through entranced mediums, or being afflicted by witchcraft (amongst others) may be considered entirely possible.
Many highly respected anthropologists, in conducting ethnographic ﬁeldwork amongst other cultures, have gone several steps beyond appreciating different modes of thinking about the world and have crossed the threshold into alternate ways of experiencing it. E.B. Tylor, E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Bruce T. Grindal and Edith Turner all crossed this threshold during their ﬁeldwork,and all interpreted and presented their experiences in different ways.
Through examining the ways in which these ethnographers documented their experiences, and how their personal world-views accommodated such unusual phenomena, it is possible to gain an insight into both changing academic attitudes towards the anomalous and the mysterious nature of the paranormal itself.”
– “Anthropology of the Weird: Ethnographic Fieldwork and Anomalous Experience” by Jack Hunter in G. Taylor (ed.) (2011). Darklore Vol. 6. Brisbane: Daily Grail Publishing. pp. 243-253.
Since the late 60’s and early 70’s parapsychology has sought objective verification for the phenomenon in the laboratory rather than cultivating the experience as a participant in the field.
Jack Hunter, editor for Paranthropology, Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal , is working with a group of researchers that are changing this trend. Through ethnographic and participation based research they are discovering new ways to engage with anamolous phenomenon that offer alternative avenues for exploration outside of the circular skeptic/believer debate.
What got you into all this?
I have always been interested in the paranormal, and when I went to University to study archaeology & anthropology I came to the realization that anthropological, and more specifically ethnographic, methodologies provide an ideal means to investigate the paranormal in an open-minded way.
How can the study of anomalous phenomena help our understanding of human experience?
I think the best answer to this question was given by the psychologist William James in the 19th century when he wrote that “no account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded”. James stressed the fact that our understanding of reality will be limited, and hence fundamentally flawed, if we fail to take into account all aspects of existence – no matter how weird and unusual they are. To ignore these “anomalous” phenomena and experiences is to arbitrarily neglect a facet of the human condition and of reality as a whole.