‘Paradoxical Spaces of Belief in Paranormal Investigation Cultures’ by Dr. Paul Kingsbury

Date(s) - October 26, 2022
7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Catholic Pacific College

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Despite the formation of a Western secular society, researchers have observed a surge in the beliefs and practices associated with the paranormal. Central to these new paranormal cultures is the increase in popularity of paranormal investigation organizations that study anomalous phenomena. My lecture examines the psychoanalytic geographies of UFO conferences, ghost investigations, and Sasquatch expeditions  to consider how these spaces have proliferated not because of the oft-proclaimed death of God, but because, following Jacques Lacan, “God is unconscious.” Given Lacan’s anti-psychological assertion that the “unconscious is outside,” I explore how the paranormal investigators’ enduring and unaware beliefs in God or the “big Other” are materially externalized in their socio-spatial practices and rituals. Specifically, I illustrate how these spaces of belief are animated by a series of Lacanian paradoxes: enjoyment as an injunction, fantasy as a support of reality, recovering an object of desire that was never lost, love as giving something we don’t have, and non-dupery as the shortest path to error. I conclude by reflecting on how paranormal investigations are quite ordinary insofar as the above paradoxes permeate everyday life and are predicated on a faith in mystery rather than a mystery of faith.


Paul Kingsbury is professor of geography and associate dean of the Faculty of Environment at Simon Fraser University. He was born in Liverpool and grew up in Gloucester, England and then obtained a BA in Geography from Lampeter (1996), University of Wales, as well as an MA (1999) and PhD (2003) in Geography from the University of Kentucky. His recent publications include the journal article, “A literary geography of the sinthome: the case of Sherlock Holmes and The Stormy Petrels of British Columbia,” in Social & Cultural Geography (2021), and two edited books, A Place More Void (with Anna J. Secor, 2021, University of Nebraska Press) and Lacan and the Environment (with Clint Burnham, 2021, Palgrave). Paul’s research focuses on psychoanalysis, social and spatial theories, consumption, aesthetics, and most recently, paranormal investigation cultures.


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