My Research Approach: I am a PhD candidate researching the cultural intersection of religion, science, and society in how people have encountered, experienced, and attempted to explain extraordinary things. Such things are often referred to as the supernatural or the paranormal, terms that carry with them many assumptions. Inspired by the approach of interdisciplinary networks such as Exploring the Extraordinary and scholars who combine disciplinary methodologies, I approach historical encounters with anomalous phenomena as being within the broader realm of extraordinary experiences. This can include anything that is outside of the ordinary, anything that is exceptional in relation to individual, community, and cultural knowledge and experiences. In using this term, my historical research strives to operate outside of common dichotomic debates, for example between belief and disbelief, to get more at what these experiences specifically mean to people and cultures, how they affect lives, and how knowledge is shaped and challenged around them. Since my focus is on the past century or so, I draw from history, journalism, and anthropology to explore my scholarly analysis, which I aim to make accessible to anyone who is interested in extraordinary things.
Mischievous Forces: For my doctoral research, I am focusing on shifting explanations of the poltergeist phenomenon in the twentieth century between the spiritual to the psychological. The poltergeist refers to invisible, mischievous forces known to knock on walls, throw objects of all kinds, and upturn heavy furniture. By the 1950s, psychological and psychoanalytical concepts of human potential, mind over matter, and emotional well-being were introduced into poltergeist households, challenging widely-held notions of spirits and life after death being responsible for the manifestations. In addition to archival research, with the approval of UBC's Research Ethics Board, I am interviewing living eyewitnesses, researchers and critics of this phenomenon. Advisor: Dr. Joy Dixon. Committee: Dr. Robert Brain, Dr. Carla Nappi, Dr. Leslie Paris.