Jeremy Stolow, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Montréal, will provide an overview and interim report on his current research, which surveys the range of optical instruments and visual media technologies used by psychic researchers, alternative health practitioners, and spiritual service providers, all of whom share an interest in trying to detect, visualize and pictorially represent mysterious spiritual forces: specifically, the “vital energy” that some claim radiates from our human bodies and is referred to as our “aura.” From the “photographie des effluves” undertaken in the late nineteenth century, to the international spread of Kirlian photography in the Cold War period, to present-day applications of advanced digital imaging technologies to photo-document and interpret “human energy fields,” evolving visual media technologies have served as instruments of scientific measurement and representation and at the same time as vehicles of extrasensory perception and supernatural vision. Referencing selected case studies, this project seeks to understand how such visual media have contributed to competing epistemological, aesthetic, and cosmological claims about the existence of invisible, radiant forces that extend beyond the human body. On that basis he shall also attempt to mount a critique of the ways scholars have conventionally (and quite artificially) approached the study of science, medicine, religion, and spirituality as disconnected domains of knowledge and practice.
Jeremy Stolow is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Concordia University, Montréal, Canada. He is also a member of the International Advisory Board of the Center for Religion and Media (New York University), and the Centre de recherche sur l’intermédialité (Université de Montréal). He is the editor of Deus in Machina: Religion, Technology, and the Things in Between, (New York: Fordham University Press, 2012) and the author of Orthodox by Design: Judaism, Print Politics, and the ArtScroll Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award in the scholarship category, Jewish Book Council.