It's now official. Tulane's School of Continuing Studies, which runs the Summer School, approved my course.
Monster Hunters, Ufologists, and Vampire Slayers
CSAN 291 (Continuing Studies - Anthropology)
Cultural examination of the beliefs, practices, identity, and history of “alternative scientific” fields of study concerning the paranormal, UFOs, and hidden animals. These subcultures are interesting anthropologically in their own right, but also provide a mirror for understanding mainstream knowledge production, and especially the relationship between science, the media, and the public. Are they science, or could they be in the future? Why or why not? Who decides?
I'll be teaching this for three hours a night, twice a week, from May 14th through the end of June. I was worried the department wouldn't like it (I have my doctoral defense on Monday, but when I proposed the class I didn't know if I would be graduated yet by summer), but they thought it was a really good idea, and it is a hit over at the Continuing Studies school.
We're going to use the following texts. I may also add some readings on as reserve
2006 Ghost Hunters of the South. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson.
Daegling, David J.
2004 Bigfoot Exposed: An Anthropologist Examines America's Enduring Legend. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek.
2001 The Lure of the Edge: Scientific Passions, Religious Beliefs, and the Pursuit of UFOs. University of California Press Berkely.
2006 Slayers and Their Vampires: A Cultural History of Killing the Dead. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.
Monaghan, John and Peter Just
2000 Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, USA.
We're reading the book on vampire-slayers as a historical example, and will then focus on ufologists, cryptozoologists, and ghost hunters. We'll look at the basics of the phenomena they are interested in, what they think about the phenomena, what they do about it, who joins in, the structure and nature of organizations and networks, meetings, the history of these fields, and their relation to established science and academia.
I thought about assigning Nick Redfern's Three Men Seeking Monsters or Jim Moseley's Shockingly Close to the Truth. I may assign a chapter or so as reserve reading, or simply recommend them for the feel of these pursuits. I may have to also put Chris O'Brien's The Mysterious Valley on reserve. In addition to being a good book, he talks a lot about how he got into researching mutes and UFOs and other weird stuff, and his rules for research.
But I had to keep the reading low. This is not a grad-level course, it takes place quickly over six weeks in the summer.
I am very excited about this.
As a reminder, I've previously posted a listing of other courses I'm aware of that teach spooky stuff in an academic setting.