How to speak like a spirit medium

Voice and evidence in Australian Spiritualism

by MATT TOMLINSON

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In the movement known as Spiritualism, successful performances of “mental mediumship” are rarely smooth. At services held by the Canberra Spiritualist Association, mediums attempt to provide evidence of life after death by describing a deceased person's character in ways recognizable to audience members. A medium's verbal performance de‐emphasizes heteroglossia while developing vivid spirit characters. Audience members sometimes do not understand or accept what the medium says, but small “failures” in performance help build a larger sense that mediums and audiences are working to gather evidence. As they work, mediums foreground and background their agency at the same time, displaying their fluency in spirit communication while identifying spirits as ultimately responsible for being present, and offering messages to the living.