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When we talk about stories of alien abduction in the United States, we often do so through a framework of belief vs. disbelief. Do I think this story is true, or do I think it’s false? Anthropologist Susan Lepselter asks what happens when we instead listen to “UFO talk” ethnographically, understanding it as a form of vernacular American poetics that must be made sense of within specific cultural and political contexts. In The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press, 2016), Lepselter draws on years of interviews with “experiencers,” those who tell of being abducted by aliens, and participant-observation at an experiencers support group in a southern US city. Her wide-ranging book considers abduction stories in relation to other narrative forms—captivity narratives, conspiracy theories, frontier tales—offering new and shifting frameworks for making sense of the weird, uncanny, random, and real.

Carrie Lane is a Professor of American Studies at California State University, Fullerton and author of A Company of One: Insecurity, Independence, and the New World of White-Collar Unemployment (Cornell University Press, 2011). Her research concerns the changing nature of work in the contemporary U.S. She is currently writing a book on the professional organizing industry. To contact her or to suggest a recent title, email

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