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Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Science of the Seance

Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40

Distributed for University of British Columbia Press

Science of the Seance

Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40

Beth A. Robertson resurrects the story of a group of men and women who sought to transform the seance into a laboratory of the spirits and a transnational empirical project. Her findings cast new light on how science, metaphysics, and the senses collided to inform gendered norms in the 1920s and ’30s. She reveals a world inhabited, on one side, by psychical researchers who represented themselves as masters of the senses, untainted by the effeminized subjectivity of the body and, on the other, by mediums and ghostly subjects who could and did challenge the researchers’ exclusive claims to scientific expertise and authority.


256 pages


Table of Contents

Groping in the Dark: An Introduction

1 The “Scientific Self ”: Performative Masculinity in the Psychical Laboratory

2 Otherworldly Subjects: Mediums and Spirits

3 A Touch of the Uncanny: Sensing a Material Otherworld

4 The Qualities of Quartz: Technology, Inscriptions, and Mechanizing Vision

5 Fragments of a Spectral Self: Psychology, Medicine, and Aberrant Souls

6 Teleplasmic Mechanics: Spirit Scientists and Vital Technologies

The Knot Unravelled: An Epilogue

Notes; Bibliography

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