At the boundaries of the mind: Introducing our forthcoming anthology

The research project Mind and the Other, funded by the Academy of Finland, is proud to introduce Mielen rajoilla. Nykypäivän kummat kokemukset, a multidisciplinary collection of articles in Finnish. The title roughly translates to At the boundaries of the mind. Uncanny experiences in the present day. The collection is a bold opening in the research of the uncanny as it examines and discusses the experiences of Finnish people that transcend the everyday life.

The basis of the publication is the spontaneous letter material the research project received from the public after initial media exposure. The letters depict for instance encounters with angels, spirit guides and the deceased, precognition and out-of-body experiences.

Through these letters we examine how uncanny experiences impact the people who live through them, how they interpret the phenomena and search for meaning in them. The focus of the collection will also be turned on the surrounding cultural landscape that has little or no tolerance for this type of otherness. The aim of the book is to shed light on the phenomenon and to dispel the negative preconceptions surrounding it.

The writers of the articles represent many different branches of science, from medical anthropology to cultural history and psychiatry. They approach the subject matter through their own scientific background but also through a shared multidisciplinary theoretical approach. In this book we use the term uncanny to address the phenomena that earlier research has described as supernatural, paranormal and otherworldly. We do not make truth claims about these experiences but see them strictly as phenomena that differ from the mainstream of modern ontology. In the realm of the uncanny there lies a vast scale of phenomena and experiences that can be sensitive and stigmatizing for an individual to share with the public.

The book is a scientific presentation that is divided into four parts. It starts as a source-based examination on the basic notions of the uncanny as it introduces the foundations of the research. In the first part we portray, in a scientific manner, the uncanny experiences and the situations where people have had them.

In the second part we focus on the sensory phenomenology of the experiences and on the emotional side of the phenomena. These articles approach the subject through a theoretical apparatus from, for instance, the fields of affective science, anthropology of the senses and embodied phenomenology.

In the third part we delve into the endeavors of the people who have encountered the uncanny to find meaningful explanations to their experiences. Through a historical and cultural perspective we analyze the different attitudes and modes of interpretation individuals have grown to rely on and, at times, suffer from. Our approach is both understanding and emancipatory as we try to shed light on the stigmatizing effects of uncanny experiences and unravel the different factors behind those effects.

In the final part we introduce different points of view on how to examine uncanny experiences as a feature of the human mind that can be a burden but also a resource. We formulate new theoretical concepts to better our understanding of the uncanny and construct a methodological approach to examine the uncanny in a network of social and material actions and the phenomenon’s bodily and emotional connections to the human mind.

Mielen rajoilla. Nykypäivän kummat kokemukset is intended for both the general public and researchers interested in the uncanny.
The collection will be published in the upcoming months.

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