E.T. Culture

Anthropology in Outerspaces

E.T. Culture

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 14 b&w photos Published: January 2006

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Science and Technology Studies

Anthropologists have long sought to engage and describe foreign or “alien” societies, yet few have considered the fluid communities centered around a shared belief in alien beings and UFO sightings and their effect on popular and expressive culture. Opening up a new frontier for anthropological study, the contributors to E.T. Culture take these communities seriously. They demonstrate that an E.T. orientation toward various forms of visitation—including alien beings, alien technologies, and uncanny visions—engages primary concepts underpinning anthropological research: host and visitor, home and away, subjectivity and objectivity. Taking the point of view of those who commit to sci-fi as sci-fact, contributors to this volume show how discussions and representations of otherworldly beings express concerns about racial and ethnic differences, the anxieties and fascination associated with modern technologies, and alienation from the inner workings of government.

Drawing on social science, science studies, linguistics, popular and expressive culture, and social and intellectual history, the writers of E.T. Culture unsettle the boundaries of science, magic, and religion as well as those of technological and human agency. They consider the ways that sufferers of “unmarked” diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome come to feel alien to both the “healthy” world and the medical community incapable of treating them; the development of alien languages like Klingon; attempts to formulate a communications technology—such as that created for the spaceship Voyager—that will reach alien beings; the pilgrimage spirit of UFO seekers; the out-of-time experiences of Nobel scientists; the embrace of the alien within Japanese animation and fan culture; and the physical spirituality of the Raëlian religious network.

Contributors. Debbora Battaglia, Richard Doyle, Joseph Dumit, Mizuko Ito, Susan Lepselter, Christopher Roth, David Samuels


“[I]nformative...[and] interesting. . . . Greater than the sum of its parts, E.T. Culture is a liminal exploration of UFOs and related phenomena as expressions of western culture’s project to exterminate boundaries between self and other, real and fantastic, everyday and uncanny, earthly and unearthly, human and posthuman.” — Doland Palumbo, Journal of American Culture

“[T]his work breaks new ground for anthropology by shedding light on an important aspect of our popular culture—one that is often overlooked in the literature of our discipline, despite its relevance to central themes like race, language, culture, power, politics, and religion.” — Sean P. O’Neill, American Anthropologist

“The scholars who wrote for the book focus on how discussion and images of aliens reflect anxiety about issues such as technology and race…. By avoiding the truth of claims of UFO believers, the scholars examine the effects of those beliefs on people.” — Gary Shapiro, The New York Sun

"[T]here is much food for ufological thought in this volume. . . . [W]orthwhile for those seeking a fresh perspective on the human side of ufology." — Andrew Honigman, Fate

E.T. Culture is a very strong theoretical intervention and a fascinating read. It is remarkable for its expansive, multiple-explanations approach. Each article makes a different, and each a compelling, argument for what UFOness is all about.” — Kathleen Stewart, author of A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America

“Who would have guessed in this dark and fearful time that a collection of essays on aliens would offer so much hope? Debbora Battaglia and her contributors open up new spaces for thinking. They provide us with room to breathe. Approaching otherness and the uncanny not with anxiety but with optimism, her anthropology of visits invites us to make ourselves open to ambiguity, an invitation which, in an unfortunate age of absolutes, we would all do well to accept.” — Jodi Dean, author of Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Debbora Battaglia is Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College. She is the author of On the Bones of the Serpent: Person, Memory, and Mortality in Sabarl Island Society and the editor of Rhetorics of Self-Making.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Editors' Note

Insiders’ Voices in Outerspaces / Debbora Battaglia

Ufology as Anthropology: Race, Extraterrestrials, and the Occult / Christopher F. Roth

Alien Tongues / David Samuels

The License: Poetics, Power, and the Uncanny / Susan Lepselter

“For Those Who Are Not Afraid of the Future”: Raelian Clonehood in the Public Sphere / Debbora Battaglia

Intertextual Enterprises: Writing Alternative Places and Meanings in the Media Mixed Networks of Yugioh / Mizuko Ito

Close Encounters of the Nth Kind: Becoming Sampled and the Mullis-ship Connection / Richard Doyle

“Come on, people... we *are* the aliens. We seem to be suffering from Host-Planet Rejection Syndrome”: Liminal Illnesses, Structural Damnation, and Social Creativity / Joseph Dumit




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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3621-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3632-7
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