This chapter tells Luke’s story of skiing to the South Pole, where he experienced a range of hallucinatory phenomena: illusions, visions, voices and presence. They became so familiar to Luke that they formed part of the daily routine: illusions on the snow and hallucinations on the horizon. Luke’s presences were not just saving him; they needed him. He had a responsibility to them. His experiences remind us that relating to others is not a one-way street – duties, hopes and desires go in both directions. It stands to reason that if our minds somehow create others, then our feelings towards them will reflect that complexity. Some presences lead. And some are led.
In this chapter, the author explores the nature of loneliness and isolation, and what this might tell us about presence. He discusses the ultrarunner Paul Burgum’s experiences of feeling that a spirit had joined him on his epic run in Italy and suggests that this illustrates an important point: if you go seeking inspiration, actively looking for companions and putting yourself into states that blur the boundaries of self and other, you might not always get to choose what happens next. A presence could be invited in, but who or what they are isn’t always up to you – the process might even require you to give up that kind of control. And it might be shaped by others around you. This chapter expands on the complexity of presence.
This chapter maps out women’s politics in the ‘Socialist Republic’, paying attention to class and generation. It tracks the involvement of women in the labour movement and their representation on Sheffield City Council, before describing how they developed and engaged with campaigns for gender equality. It discusses how working-class women interacted with the women’s liberation movement (WLM) through their engagement with left-wing organising, and uses oral history interviews to explore some of their attitudes towards women’s liberation activists and their ideas. Using the newsletter of the labour movement’s Working Women’s Charter Committee (WWCC) and interviews with prominent members the chapter depicts the vibrancy of campaigns for gender equality within the labour movement. In the early 1980s the socialist feminist contingent of Sheffield’s WLM shifted their focus from bemoaning the lack of engagement with working-class women in the WLM to working within the labour movement on gender equality through the WWCC. Whilst the older generation of working-class women who founded the WWCC generally welcomed the enthusiasm of younger socialist feminists and incorporated their ideas, the chapter also details the points of tension which emerged between women of different generations and class backgrounds as they worked together.
This book follows a psychologist's quest to understand one of the most curious experiences known to humankind: the universal, disturbing feeling that someone or something is there when we are alone. What does this feeling mean and where does it come from? When and why do presences emerge? And how can we begin to understand a phenomenon that can be transformative for those who experience it and yet almost impossible to put into words? The answers to these questions lie in this tour-de-force through contemporary psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and philosophy. Presence follows Ben Alderson-Day's attempts to understand how this experience is possible. The journey takes us to meet explorers, mediums and robots, and step through real, imagined and virtual worlds. Presence is the story of whom we carry with us, at all times, as parts of ourselves.
We can probably find an explanation for anything, and we do not always get the chance to test our explanations. To do that, we would have to somehow create a presence. In this chapter, the author describes how Olaf Blanke and colleagues offered a more detailed model for how this process works for presence with the help of a robot. The author concludes that our brains might create a bodily self – but that body has to exist in space. Some spaces will make our bodies grow or shrink, contract or relax. Where we draw the line, where we distinguish ourselves from others, these things will shift with the space we are in. The presences we encounter might be familiar companions, or unsettling doppelgängers, or just neutral entities, but the conditions around us have to be right for them to appear at all.
This chapter looks at sleep as potentially one of the most powerful sources of presence. The presences that come with sleep paralysis are not like most of the presences we have met so far. These visitors are much more likely to be experienced in a negative fashion. The phenomenon of sleep paralysis acts as an important testing ground for many of the key questions around felt presence.
This chapter explores how the women’s liberation movement (WLM) in Sheffield struggled to incorporate issues of sexuality and ‘race’ into its politics. It uses oral history interviews alongside the women’s press to unpick some of the archival silences surrounding lesbianism in the movement. Building on the previous chapter it shows how Sheffield’s WLM gradually developed a more radical feminism as socialist feminists turned their attention towards the Working Women’s Charter Committee (WWCC), and that lesbian and bisexual women increasingly shaped the movement from the early 1980s. Like the national WLM, Sheffield’s WLM and WWCC struggled to include and recognise women of colour in their feminism. Instead, Black and racially minoritised women tended to fight for gender equality within Black community politics and within campaigns against racism. This chapter explores attempts by Sheffield WLM and the WWCC to include women of colour, before tracing the development of two Black women’s groups; Sheffield Black Women’s Group (BWG) and the Black Women’s Resource Centre (BWRC) and their relationship with Sheffield WLM. It will also examine South Asian women’s groups in the city, paying particular attention to the Bengali Women’s Support Group and the role of women in the Asian Youth Movement. The propensity for women of colour and lesbian women to organise separately highlights the problems broader left-wing movements had with incorporating diverse voices and representing difference.
This chapter uses peace and environmentalism, and the anti-apartheid movement and anti-racism, as paired case studies to demonstrate how activists negotiated points of solidarity within new social movements, single-issue and racial politics. Using oral histories and archival sources, it traces the intersections and boundaries of these four movements to show how Sheffield’s politics functioned, and how the local standing of each movement had a significance that went beyond the national organisation. Whilst there was a crossover of personnel, mutual support from differing organisations, and often a shared soundtrack of protest (through the Celebrated Sheffield Street Band and the Sheffield Socialist Choir), each movement, and each organisation within each movement, had its own priorities. Often activists could not see beyond their own demands, and so, at a local level, the fusion of old and new social movements promoted by the new urban left often broke down.
Socialist Republic is a detailed account of left-wing politics in 1980s Britain. The 1980s is considered a time of crisis for left-wing politics but this book demonstrates the persistence of social democracy in localities like Sheffield. Drawing on archival research and oral history interviews it examines how Sheffield City Council developed a left-wing agenda to counter Thatcherism and renew the British left. Stepping back from the Council, it then explores how the city’s wider activism of the labour movement, women’s groups, peace, environmentalism, anti-apartheid, anti-racism, Black community organising, and lesbian and gay politics interacted with the ‘Socialist Republic’, and how these movements were embraced, supported, restricted, or ignored by the local authority. By bringing a wide range of movements together and examining them in the context of a vibrant local government, this book uses the local to offer a methodological challenge to the study of new social movements while providing a road map for how left-wing politics can be studied in other cities. Offering a timely focus on regional politics, it demonstrates how histories of local political cultures can enrich our understanding of political developments on a national and international level.
In the popular imagination, presences often mean spirits or ghosts. This chapter focuses on the notion of the spirit and how it connects to presence. During his research, the author met spiritual practitioners, diviners, psychics and mediums – many, but not all, considered themselves spiritualists. For them, there was no great mystery when it came to presence. It was spirit, pure and simple. The author suggests that felt presence could be shaped by our very own models of what is possible in the mind. We draw the boundaries; we decide who gets in and gets out. We might be the architects of where we stop and the other begins.