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Paranormal beliefs have become extremely widespread in recent years, and are now a focus of many forms of popular entertainment (with paranormal themes informing many contemporary films, TV dramas and reality shows). Why is this? Why do so many of us believe in paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, UFOs, and Bigfoot? Are such beliefs harmful or even dangerous?
I thoroughly enjoyed this course and it exceeded my expectations. I learnt a lot of new topics and it definitely gave me a lot to think about between lessons.
In examining the origins, history and contemporary significance of the paranormal, this course critically uncovers some of the ways in which paranormal beliefs not only help us in dealing with the anxieties of living in a rapidly changing, globalised world, but also how those beliefs have been subject to political manipulation around issues of race and national identity.
Whilst social media and online sources have played an important role in popularising the paranormal, these sources often offer incomplete and uncritical perspectives; alternatively, this course offers participants the opportunity to discuss and debate the contemporary importance of the paranormal in an engaged, academically-informed and enthusiastic manner with Justin Woodman: a social scientist and anthropologist who has researched the impact and significance of paranormal for the past 15 years.
As such, the course is not concerned with either proving or disproving the existence of particular paranormal phenomenon, but with providing participants with a developed critical framework for understanding both the psychology of paranormal beliefs, and how paranormal beliefs shape our social, cultural and political understandings of the modern world in often surprising and unexpected ways. In doing so, the course introduces you to the history and contexts of the concept of ‘the paranormal’, with a focus on the following: ghosts and hauntings; psychic powers and parapsychology; ufos, alien encounters and alien abduction narratives; conspiracy theories and urban legends; monsters, ‘living’ dinosaurs and ‘cryptozoology’ (the study of unknown animals); historical anomalies and ‘lost’ or ‘hidden’ civilizations.
What are the course aims?
The aim of the course is to develop participants' understanding of and ability to critically analyse the social and cultural significance of paranormal beliefs - and the reasons why the paranormal is so prevalent within forms of popular and visual culture and contemporary media – through the lens of various anthropological perspectives.
To this end, you will acquire a critical understanding of key anthropological theories as they pertain to understanding social and cultural salience of paranormal beliefs and experiences. You will also acquire an understanding of why paranormal beliefs continues to be relevant in a contemporary, globalised world by looking at the relationship between the paranormal, visual media and other forms of popular culture.
What will I study?
Each session will be delivered in a 2-hour format which will involve approximately 1 hour of lecturing (broken down into 2 x 30 minute lecture sessions, complimented with short films and other audio-visual material). The remaining time will be devoted to group/workshop activities to enable you to clarify and consolidate your knowledge, develop your insights and engage in critical evaluation of the ideas presented in lecturers and reading materials, and share your ideas with other members of the class.
We are committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. If you require adjustments, please complete the relevant section on the booking form and also contact us at email@example.com so we can respond to your requests as soon as possible.
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