Paranthropology – The Anthropology of the Paranormal

Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.”

– Charles Addams.

 

Anthropology has always excited me. I’m not weird, we all have our passions, some of you enjoy Korean Pop groups, and I’m here for you. I’m not judging. What I’ve always liked about anthropology is its ability to describe life in philosophical paradigms, which make the normal seem abnormal.

For example, when I began anthropology at university level in 2007, I was young, idealistic, and had a complete world-view. Through my studies, I learned that this is impossible. What I thought were universal truths turned out to be culturally constructed scenarios. I came to realise how many valid realities exist, notwithstanding my own view of those realities.

Coming at the paranormal from an anthropological perspective seems plausible to me in a way pre-2007 Jaycee would have deemed ridiculous. Anyone reading this must either be interested in the paranormal, anthropological theory or both. However, if you are new to either topic here is how they are described.

Paranormal:Not scientifically explainable.” This is an updated word from the 20th century used to replace supernatural:Of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe in relation to God.” Scientists now study paranormal events and anomalies by applying its own archetypes. They believe the study of paranormal is valid because there are too many accounts from humans to disregard it.

Now, let’s talk regarding the current state of paranthropology. According to the ‘Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal,’ their own discipline is threatened in the new world of alternative facts. Yes, Trump has invaded everywhere, even the world of anthropology. So let me explain.

The general populous tends towards skepticism when anthropologists present the realities of others as something outside of our understanding of it. For example, with shamanism, we are quick in the ‘Western’ world to dismiss this as a form of forced psychosis or a psychological phenomenon. However, these are our terms and archetypes which inform our assessment of any given situation.

So in the world of alternative facts, everything is up for debate. nothing is concrete. Therefore the already tenuous disciplines within a philosophical vein, attempting to contribute to humankind’s cultural advancement rather than purely technological (Schroll, 2017), seem unfit to exist in the modern world.

If we return to the context of the shaman and their people, their reality is different to our own. Not only does their practices work, it is effective. Human beings create our shared realities through thinking. If we stop for a moment to consider, trillions of dollars/ euros/pounds are exchanged worldwide on an annual basis. Ye that monetary value only exists because of a shared belief.

So why not allow the belief in shamanism? It’s due to the Eurocentric view within our education systems that we are the complete reality. We’ve reached the end of history, and our sciences offer us the comforting notion that every unusual event can be explained away by them.

Nevertheless, Euro- American science has scoffed at accounts of primordial anthropology as idyllic dreams of a Golden Age, believing shamans were psychotic or at best charlatans.”4[i]

Within anthropology, our most important tool is storytelling. By doing so peer through the keyhole at the realities of others, whether that be the stock market in New York City, or the shaman in a very small community in Africa. Rather than dismissing the truths of others, we present them in a way a ‘European / western’ audience might understand.

Make no mistake though, anthropology is aware to a fault of its influence on these stories. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bourdieu and his notion of habitus.[ii] Yet we continue to try and do better, by simply allowing the stories of our participants to be presented as rawly as possible while continuing to question what consciousness means for humans.

“Consciousness could, then, be located both within the body and outside of the body simultaneously…Quantum models of consciousness are gradually proliferating in the field of consciousness studies, and are beginning to receive a degree of serious thought amongst philosophers, psychologists and physicists”[iii]

We still have a long way to go in our understanding of paranormal phenomena, however, the first step is to stop dismissing outright. The second step is to give up our arrogant notions of complete paradigms. Step three? Well, we’re working on it. Stay tuned.

Anthropology: “The science of human beings.”

Paranormal: “Events or phenomena outside the bounds of scientific explanation.”

Paranthropology“Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal.”

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

References:

  1. Dr Radin, Dean. “Real Magic. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe.”
  2. http://realitysandwich.com/162119/supernatural_natural_anthropology_paranormal
  3. “Paranthropology: Journal of Anthological Approaches to the Paranormal.” Vol 8. No 1. (March 2017).
  4. Bourdieu, P., & Nice, R. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (Vol. 16). Cambridge university press Cambridge.

 

[i] Schroll, Mark A. 2018 “Revisiting Cultural Evolution and Technological Evolution in Consciousness Studies.” The Journal of  page 4

[ii] Bourdieu, P., & Nice, R. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (Vol. 16). Cambridge university press Cambridge.

[iii] http://realitysandwich.com/162119/supernatural_natural_anthropology_paranormal

[iv] Hurst, Tanya. 2018. “Catalysts that Initiate Embodied Knowing: Reflections on Individuation, synchronicity, and Ritual Space. Page 57

 

Did you like this? I have a whole category on anthropology if you want to check it out here is a link. Enjoy!

https://thinkingmoon.com/category/anthropology/

Anthropology & Youtube

When I was 15 I discovered anthropology at Maynooth University. I fell in love and I didn’t want to learn anything else. It called out to me in a way few subjects have since. Philosophy and nature are its parents. It is like a river, you never step in the same one twice.[i] Which is why it’s so uniquely suited to everything.

I managed to graduate from my undergrad, how, I’m still not certain. 2010 marked a tumultuous time in my life, and I only understand now how depression and anxiety played their parts. I spend 3 long years in the job market (miserably). Then a light came in 2013 when I was accepted for a Masters in anthropology and development, in my beloved Maynooth. So over 2 years, I studied my favourite subject again, this time solely.

Even with the seriousness of the subject matter, I still found my whimsical side, which I would like to share with you today. In 2014 I wrote an essay for a class by Dr Steve Coleman of Maynooth University. Rereading it has at times made me laugh out loud. Why he gave me a 2.1 on it I’ll never truly know. Shout out to Steve!

I’ve included some extracts below and it has been sufficiently altered for syntax and clarity. Also, Jenni of today has added some stuff for context and you can see that in italics. So if you’ve made it this far enjoy my stalwart friend!

Animation as Performance

The online world is an endless void of connected humanity. Projections of the self are possible online which are not available to us in the tactile world. Although there are situations where it is acceptable to enact your fandom in ‘real time,’ through ‘Cosplay,’ (the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga or anime) such as during Halloween, at conventions, or in theme parks; online personalities offer an outlet for people who want to explore an alternative version of themselves. This often takes place through participation in online communities such as MMO’s (an online video game which can be played by a very large number of people simultaneously). Manning & Gershon explain how the avatars make it possible for people to distance themselves from their bodies:

“…in the virtual worlds of Massively Multiple Online Games (MMOGs). Avatars are virtual embodiments that permit, at the outset, a complete divorce between the body of the offline player and the body of the online character and permit large numbers of offline players to interact socially within a single virtual world mediated by these online embodiments.”

Animation has rapidly become one of the most prevalent expressions of new media this century. Silvio provides a perspective on the popularity of animation:

The proliferation of animation and animated characters is not simply an effect or symptom of the intersection of computer technology and structural transformations in global capitalism. Animation is also popular because it provides a productive trope for thinking through this intersection.”

The topics I will discuss are YouTube and its relevant fandoms. People reinvent themselves online, they perform through the genre of another, and live action has even been transformed into animation. Silvio reinforces, “animation as an alternative model of and for human action in the world,” which is something anthropology seeks to link new animism.

Animism: Descola and Kohn

Descola provides a lens with which to look upon humanity, and the dual system of nature-culture, in his work ‘The Ecology of Others,’

“Making modern dualism the template for all the states of the world has thus lead anthropology to a particular form of academic Eurocentrism, which consists in believing not that the realities that humans objectivise are everywhere identical, but that our own manner of objectivising is universally shared.”

This thought process, although not new, challenges both the dualism of the Eurocentric (focusing on European culture or history to the exclusion of a wider view of the world; implicitly regarding European culture as pre-eminent) anthropology and the belief of anthropologist that all cosmologies (an account or theory of the origin of the universe) objectify the same way. Performance in animation can be adopted here in order to understand cosmologies that may appear to be outside the scope of animism, such as European cultures. Though the stories enacted often have a ‘first world perspective,’ the potential of the digital age to create analogies requires further exploration. Never before could we channel our likes, wants, and needs into something such as the video platform YouTube. YouTube is a nascent form of media which allows anyone to upload content, as long as it follows the community guidelines. The platform is relatively democratic, your views are the votes for what content is pushed to the fore.

The more we watch, the more YouTube calculates our interests through their algorithms, which in turn can generate advertisement revenue, incentivising the creators. YouTube also creates a market for animations. The consumers get what they want, which is more of their favourite animated characters. This is then exemplified by fans seeing themselves in the animated characters. It cannot be ignored and Silvio provides us with this concept:

“My project in this essay, to set up animation as a platform for the comparative study of how human beings negotiate the relationship between self and world, both includes such projects of intellectual history and, of course, should itself be subjected to cultural and historical contextualization.”

Here we can replace the terms ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ with ‘self’ and ‘world’. Which is what Descola was trying to produce in the ‘Ecology of Others.’ Western discourse believes it is complete and therefore other cosmologies should reflect it. It is pertinent however that we do not assume this. Each individual has their own system of meaning which they attach to the nature of their being. It seems both appropriate and fashionable in Western cultures to separate cultural being from natural being, as only one of those has the tools to survive within the systems capitalism and the neoliberal market have constructed. What must be understood is that all cognizant beings have a ‘self.’ This ‘self’ is only separated into sections by the environment they find themselves in such as their workplace or their community. What animation may give us is the picture of the human as a whole rather than the pieces we normally find ourselves in.

Fandoms, Youtubers, and Performance

We continue our journey through the internet with animation as our guiding trope. We encounter a phenomenon which lends itself to the anthropology as far back as Mauss, and gift exchange. With online community accounts offered for free, people can spend leisure time creating or enjoying fan art, which is more often than not, a reflection of some fandom or other.

The offering from YouTube comes from those who describe themselves as ‘Lets Plays.’ These YouTubers record themselves playing video games and their reactions to them. The most common reaction type is comedic, however, they vary. One such YouTuber calls himself Markiplier; his popularity exceeds 6 million subscribers. (Now with over 20 million as of June 2018). With this enormous fanbase dutifully watching his videos, he is able to make a living out of YouTube. Markiplier is known to play horror games in which he appears authentically frightened, which seems to be a large part of his allure. He is brave, according to himself. He uses his voice to give life to characters in the game. A memorable life-giving moment took place in his ‘lets play’ for an Amnesia custom story. He encounters a ‘tiny box’, pictured below, which he proceeds to call, ‘Tiny Box Tim.’ He announces he will bring Tiny Box Tim on adventures with him. Markiplier gives voice and life to an animation from a game. The first question that must be addressed is why? It would appear that humans give life to the inanimate; it seems to be innate for us to personify the world around us.

TinyBoxTimAnmesia.png

This event spawned an animation in which a cartoon Markiplier and Tiny Box Tim were inserted into the game, pictured in below, using an audio snippet from Markiplier’s original video. This 2.00-minute animation, which on Markiplier’s channel now has over 7 million views(now at 20 million), Was a made by a fellow YouTuber, and Markiplier fan called Lixian. This animation fascinating, not only as it awards the opportunity for the gamer Markiplier to appear inside the game, but it also gives life by means of animation to Tiny Box Tim. This character has gone on to appear in other Amnesia stories and animations with Markiplier. Markiplier set this in motion by imprinting himself onto Tiny Box Tim, which has spawned much fan art from Markiplier fans.

AnimatedTinyBoxTim

This is a wonderful example of Marcel Maus idea of gift exchange. Markiplier is free to use the channel to upload videos, he is compensated by YouTube for ad revenues in relation to time watched on his videos, allowing his viewers to watch for free. This is the result of a gift exchange between the YouTuber and the ‘fan’. This is described by Helleskon:

“…The gifts have value within the fannish economy in that they are designed to create and cement a social structure, but they themselves are not meaningful outside their context…”

So what we see unfolding is Markiplier’s video which provides comedy, in response fans that cannot compensate him in a conventional sense, create fan art such as the animation above. This performance is projected onto animations such as those during gameplay. Markiplier’s voice and personality is projected onto something inanimate, such as a tiny box.

This also is something which may affect Silvio’s belief that animated characters are the only ones that have lives of their own, as this is something live ‘characters’ such as Marilyn Monroe or Mick Jagger cannot have. In the case I have described above the animator Lixian became the live character of Markiplier by creating a representation of Markiplier through his own unique animation style, and use of Markiplier’s original audio. If we follow Silvio on this:

“When we follow an animated character we do much more than anthropormorpasize theme, we in fact, inject ourselves into them. Not only becoming like them, but becoming them, feeling what they are feeling and experiencing what they are feeling. Giving life and logic to something like an animated toy in Toy Story.”

Lixian created his interpretation of what happened, and now the animation gives us the possibility to feel not only what Markiplier felt but what Tiny Box Tim felt. Which pictured in below were; determination, joy, pride, and sadness.

The labour of humanity has allowed this to exist. Not only has a tiny box been animated, but it has been given the range of human emotions, making it real to us.

“Thanks to labour, humans extract their means of subsistence from their environment which they partially transform, metamorphosing themselves in the process in that they establish a social mediation with their fellow humans and with objects.”

Humans have this ability to personify the inanimate as we have a deep-rooted need to define the world. This is increasingly becoming the reality of play for children and adults alike. Play is now extended beyond childhood into a safe online environment, where we can build and define our relationships. We can see how we may like ourselves to be. The act of YouTubing as a ‘lets player’ has some interesting connotations when we consider this quote.

“Silvio points out that this is also true for moments of performance—all sorts of people enable actors to do their jobs. But when people interpret actors’ performance, they still focus on the embodied nature of the performance and the relationship of the actor to the role. Not so with animation. Animation brings this misrecognition in which a character is created by many to the foreground. So the labor underlying animation also contributes to the ways multiplicities can be conflated with an individual character…”

YouTubers are a phenomenon yet to be examined in great detail. YouTuber’s will often find animations of themselves, whether solicited or unsolicited, appearing from clips of their popular videos. This enables the fans to both insert themselves in the narrative of the YouTuber and also insert the YouTuber into the world of the game. The initial reaction of a YouTuber is as if they are in the game environment, which is the nature of gaming, whether you video yourself or not. By animating the moments, life has been brought to both the character of the YouTuber and the environment of the game.

Concluding Notions

Incredibly Manning & Gershon take Silvio animation tropes one step further adding an interesting dimension:

“What if this trope of animation sheds light on dilemmas otherwise obscured when one interprets interactions based on a self-divided by the tension between character and actor, between performance and true self?”

This offers something anthropology is always searching for in its discourse, especially when we consider the idea of the human having more than one self-described by Bourdieu’s ‘habitus’ and ‘field’ model. Although we are a complete person at all times when we are in certain situations we are enacting different versions of ourselves. Therefore interaction with animation is an interesting lens with which to view a person. For example, cosplayers, take an animated character, and embodied them, being both the character and themselves at the same time. Not only is this identifying mimicking an animation, but holding more than one reality in your mind at once.

We must remember we live in a world which is dominated by an online presence. Those of us online, have so many different identities, even in our use of emoticons to animate our emotions and reactions on what is a 2-dimensional space. It is undeniable that there are many versions of ourselves, and many use art to project themselves. A writer cannot separate themselves from their words, we now we have animations to enact ourselves through. They are templates waiting for someone to come along and ‘play’ them.

Copyright © 2018 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

Bibliography

  • Philippe Descola. 2013. The Ecology of Others. Prickly Paradigm Press, LLC 5629 South University Avenue.
  • Kohn, Eduardo. 2013. How Forests Think: Towards An Anthropology Beyond The Human. University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.
  • Silvio, Teri. 2010. Animation: The New Performance? Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. American Anthropological Association.
  • Manning, Paul & Gershon, Ilana. 2013. Animating Interaction. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3 (3): 107–37. Indiana University & Trent University.
  • Hellekson, Karen. 2009 A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture. Cinema Journal, Vol. 48, No. 4 , pp. 113-118. Published by: University of Texas Press Society for Cinema & Media Studies.
  • Salzman, Philip Carl. 2002. On Reflexivity. American Anthropologist, Vol. 104, No. 3, pp. 805-813 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association.
  • Gibson, Priscilla. Dickens’s Uses of Animism. Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 283-291 Published by: University of California Press.
Pictures

[i] Pocahontas. Disney.

Interested in this? Have a go at this one!

https://thinkingaheadblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/troid/

Food & It’s Surrounding Issues: An Introduction

Food & Climate Issues

During the final RTÉ debate on the 2016 general election, our incumbent Taoiseach Enda Kenny, could not answer a question put to him regarding climate change. When asked about the EU’s carbon emission targets versus our agricultural output Kenny, could not commit to either.

Our uneven production of greenhouse gases in the global north is increasingly causing devastation elsewhere. We need to meet our targets not only to avoid the hefty fines of the European Union but to avoid the devastating consequences to the natural world. The targets are not impossible. What is blocking our progress is our position as an agricultural nation, focused mostly on cattle rearing, and if we were to infringe on this part of our economy it would be irreparably damaged.

It’s a dilemma to be sure, but unlike many global issues with seemingly no solution, this one can be solved and to the benefit of the Irish public. The answer to the problem, however, is one most people don’t like discussing. It’s not just about reducing, reusing and recycling, it’s about a fourth ‘R’ word. We need to reinvent. We need to reinvent what we eat, how we eat and why we eat it. The results of this change in habits would produce positive effects on the global environment and to the individual.

All agricultural ventures require water, land and will inevitably contribute to greenhouse gases. Food is a huge industry, it must be considered in regards to sustainability. Cattle rearing is Ireland’s largest contributor to CO2 emissions so there is no doubt other food sources must be contemplated.

Food is a sensitive issue. Some people have too much, some people have too little, and overall we are all eating the wrong kinds. I have much more to say on this subject and this will not be my last discussion on food. So I ask you this, what if instead of eating so much beef and pork, we cultivated and ate insects? They require significantly less land and water and produce significantly fewer carbon emissions than cattle. They have many health benefits and can be treated as a sustainable food source.

I will continue this series in an attempt to justify my reasons for wanting us to eat insects, at the moment I will leave you with this consideration, we must think ahead, for the future of our planet. We must reinvent ourselves and that may mean eating cricket bread.

Copyright © 2016 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

If you like this post, why not read my last one?

https://thinkingaheadblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/stories-from-another-national-election-uganda/

Resources:

https://www.facebook.com/foodanthro/

 

Stories from another national election: Uganda

From Ireland to Uganda

Ireland’s 2016 general election has clouded my news feed, naturally. As a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, the results affect the social and economic situation of my loved ones. So far I am unable to ‘spot’ the winning coalition through a mixture of uncertainty and hope that the one blatantly staring us in the face doesn’t come to fruition. I’m disquieted by the possibility of a Fine Gael / Fianna Fáil coalition.

One week and a day before our own general election, Yoweri Museveni was once again elected President of Uganda. Although he is credited with overseeing some political and economic stability, his fifth re-election proves once more that he is too long in his position of power. Some of the voting was reported to be unfairly rolled out. Many balloting papers did not reach certain areas deemed to be less than ‘Museveni friendly’ until late afternoon. According to The Economist, it was “It is a tactic to disenfranchise people in the opposition’s urban strongholds.”

As this 30-year story trundles on (Museveni has been in power since 1986) the world occupies itself with more pressing matters such as the Oscars and Kim Kardashian. Regardless there is still a weight on my shoulders. Why is it that those that are in need of a voice get such a small portion of the exposure?

Under the Ugandan National Development Plan women are judged to be under-represented in many political and economic forums. “Uganda’s development progress, however, continues to be constrained by gender inequalities and social vulnerabilities.” While this is true there is little being done to change this at a governmental level. NGOs, human rights organisations, and brave local women continue the battle on the ground. We try and sleep soundly at night by telling ourselves we’ve done our part by reading the article.

Leading up to the election 7 children where reportedly sacrificed in blood rituals associated with wealth and power. This did reach the world’s newspapers today however these killings began in October of last year. Children are the most vulnerable group, entirely unable to speak for themselves, and rather than give them a voice, their deaths are muffled in a sea of seemingly irrelevant garble. The world has failed those young souls.

This is not a comprehensive view of the Ugandan election story, it is merely small pieces of a puzzle I’ve picked up but have been unable to complete. It’s piqued my interest as some of the stories ran parallel to our own election. I am as equally guilty of participation in the irrelevant garble; it keeps the voices at bay.

Copyright © 2016 Thinkingmoon.com – All rights reserved

If you liked this post, why not read my last one?

https://thinkingaheadblog.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/some-thoughts-on-women-representatives-in-irish-politics/

Sources:

FIDH 2012 Report On Women’s rights in Uganda: https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/uganda582afinal.pdf

Today’s Zaman:  http://www.todayszaman.com/life_report-children-sacrificed-to-bring-luck-in-uganda-polls_413581.html

The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21693331-after-30-years-office-why-quit-now-yoweri-museveni-wins-fifth-term-ugandas

Uganda’s National Development Plan: https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1860/National_Development_Plan_2010_11-2014_15.pdf

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