Science fiction versus science fact: The construction of paranormal event descriptions as factual
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Hellier, Robin A.
This paper examines the discursive techniques deployed in the construction of accounts of allegedly paranormal events as factual, in the context of a biography of Uri Geller written by Andrija Puharich, the first parapsychologist to experimentally test Uri’s ‘psychic powers’. Discourse analysis, informed with several conversation analysis techniques, is used to extract the rhetorical devices Puharich employs to present his event descriptions as factual, while simultaneously deconstructing and defending against the competing accounts of his critics. A wide variety of discursive techniques are identified as being used by Puharich, which can broadly be summarised in terms of empirically warranting his own interpretations and showing the conclusions of his critics to be contingently motivated. This analysis fits well with existing discourse analysis themes employed to construct an account as factual (eg. Edwards & Potter, 1992; Wooffitt, 1992). In addition, the selective deployment of these discursive techniques throughout Puharich’s biography show potential for further study in appreciating the influences that determine the level of detailed description afforded to an event, which may ultimately help constitute what is considered a ‘paranormal’ event.