Rice organizes a conference on paranormal phenomena
Illustrated by Chloe Xu
Illustrated by Chloe Xu
By Viola Hsia 08/03/22 23:29
The Archives of the Impossible conference was held at the Hudspeth Auditorium of the School of Continued Studies this past weekend. The conference focused on coverage of the academic study of UFO phenomena, extrasensory perception, and other paranormal activity.
The event, which ran from March 3-6, was hosted by Jeffrey Kripal, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. the Archives of the impossible himself refers to a plethora of research related to the study of paranormal experiences at the Woodson Research Center in the Fondren Library.
Kripal, who delivered the keynote address for the eventstated that the study of the paranormal is truly entrenched in intellectual and academic institutions, despite popular belief.
“When I’m interviewed, they often put on X Files music or something, because that’s what people [associate with the paranormal] in popular culture,” said Kripal, the J. Newton Rayzor Professor of Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice. “[But if] you go back 100 years [you find] physicists, psychologists and philosophers who invent these words to simply try to understand what is going on.
Kripal said one of the main themes of the event and his speech was that the conversation about paranormal beings should play a prominent role in academic discussions.
Stephen C. finely, one of the panellists of the Para-Ecologies panelstated that the academic study of the paranormal is the foundation of many fields of study.
“This material that we call paranormal comes from American universities,” said Finely, professor and inaugural chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University. “It’s a connection that has really been obliterated even in those disciplines – religious studies, philosophy, psychology, anthropology – that have strong paranormal origins.”
Finely said that this interconnection has real-world applications, not only between academic fields, but also when thinking about everyday life.
“I watch [at] the [inter]connection, that the possibility of what we’re talking about here in terms of the paranormal or consciousness [connects to] how people actually live in the world and experience the world day to day,” Finely said. “We are all connected in meaningful ways that could help us think about each other and the world in different ways. Corn [we also] have very different experiences and cultures that are important.
Sravana Borkataky-Varma, one of the panellists of the Para-Ecologies panelalso discussed the interdependence in the field.
“This event is really important because it helps us have a conversation about what we call the impossible in a much broader and more inclusive sense than before,” Borkataky-Varma said.
Borkataky-Varma also said studying this subject allows for a much broader view of a world, which she says we’ve been conditioned to see a certain way.
“There are beings that look like us, and then there are beings that don’t look like us, but they’re pretty much in the same space,” Borkataky-Varma said. “I really urge, especially the Rice community and the community outside, to [look beyond] and see the beauty of this larger universe in which we live together.
Finement says he hopes people don’t forget this idea of interconnection, while remembering that this subject is much more complex than is usually thought.
“Hopefully we gain a sense of complexity,” Finely said. “A lot of people in these conversations want [think of this topic as] universal. And I understand that, and it’s really important. But I don’t want to erase [individual] necessarily identities.
Kripal says he hopes people will start looking at the subject of UFOs in academic settings such as universities.
“It’s a serious intellectual project, and it belongs to universities,” Kripal said. “Of course it belongs outside of universities, but it also belongs inside of universities, and it’s good to talk about that. [there].”