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'Seeing' ghosts: referential practice and experiencing uncanny events together.

Ironside, Rachael



This paper will explore the role of referential practice in making visible an essentially ‘invisible’ object, a ghost. Drawing upon video data from groups experiencing an ostensibly paranormal event, this paper will examine how interaction between people, objects and space helps to establish a joint experience and collective understanding of an uncanny event. Unlike visible referents, ghosts are often experienced in non-physical and subjective forms including sounds, feelings and visions. This presents an interactional challenge to Modern Paranormal Groups (MPGs) who seek to experience ghosts together, and determine the nature and reality of these encounters. As this paper will explore, in this context gaze and embodied practices (including pointing, expressions and touch) often occur towards an ‘empty’ space in the environment. These practices help to establish a collective focus towards the event but also do something more. Establishing the source of an event in ‘empty space’ implies transgressive and uncanny qualities towards it, and invites the event to be ‘seen’ in a certain way, as potentially paranormal. Drawing upon video data extracts from a corpus of over 100 hours of footage collected during paranormal investigations in the UK, this paper will illustrate how events are jointly noticed, referred to and attributed meaning as paranormal in nature. The practice of pointing at nothing has been identified by previous scholars, however, in this context reference to empty space has particular relevance and meaning to the interaction taking place and the professional practice of MPGs. In addition to exploring how these interactions occur, this paper will argue that video data can provide important insights into not only the visible practices that inform reference, but also shed light on how the ‘invisible’ is determined and attributed meaning through these activities.

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Start Date Jul 2, 2019
Institution Citation IRONSIDE, R. 2019. 'Seeing' ghosts: referential practice and experiencing uncanny events together. Presented at the 2019 International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis conference (IIEMCA 19): practices, 2-5 July 2019, Mannheim, Germany.
Keywords Paranormal; Multimodal; Interaction; Ethnomethodology
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