Book ID: CBB227797049

Psychic Investigators: Anthropology, Modern Spiritualism, and Credible Witnessing in the Late Victorian Age (2022)


Psychic Investigators examines British anthropology’s engagement with the modern spiritualist movement during the late Victorian era. Efram Sera-Shriar argues that debates over the existence of ghosts and psychical powers were at the center of anthropological discussions on human beliefs. He focuses on the importance of establishing credible witnesses of spirit and psychic phenomena in the writings of anthropologists such as Alfred Russel Wallace, Edward Burnett Tylor, Andrew Lang, and Edward Clodd. The book draws on major themes, such as the historical relationship between science and religion, the history of scientific observation, and the emergence of the subfield of anthropology of religion in the second half of the nineteenth century. For secularists such as Tylor and Clodd, spiritualism posed a major obstacle in establishing the legitimacy of the theory of animism: a core theoretical principle of anthropology founded in the belief of “primitive cultures” that spirits animated the world, and that this belief represented the foundation of all religious paradigms. What becomes clear through this nuanced examination of Victorian anthropology is that arguments involving spirits or psychic forces usually revolved around issues of evidence, or lack of it, rather than faith or beliefs or disbeliefs.

Reviewed By

Review David T. Schmit (2023) Review of "Psychic Investigators: Anthropology, Modern Spiritualism, and Credible Witnessing in the Late Victorian Age". Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences (pp. 344-346). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Sera-Shriar, Efram
Leporiere, Lorenzo
Biondi, Massimo
Kyle Falcon
Noakes, Richard
Delorme, Shannon
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
History and Anthropology
Science in Context
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
History of the Human Sciences
University of Chicago Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Manchester University Press
Johns Hopkins University Press
Parapsychology; psychic phenomena
Science and religion
Occult sciences
Wallace, Alfred Russel
Palladino, Eusapia
Myers, Frederic William Henry
Carpenter, William Benjamin
Lang, Andrew
Slade, Henry
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
Great Britain
United States
Society for Psychical Research

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