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The Resonance of Unseen Things

Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny

Susan Lepselter

Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Imprint: University of Michigan Press
Published: 01/2016
Pages: 192
Subject: Social Science - Anthropology/Cultural
Print ISBN: 9780472052943
eBook ISBN: 9780472900657


The Resonance of Unseen Things offers an ethnographic meditation on the 'uncanny' persistence and cultural freight of conspiracy theory. The project is a reading of conspiracy theory as an index of a certain strain of late 20th-century American despondency and malaise, especially as understood by people experiencing downward social mobility. Written by a cultural anthropologist with a literary background, this deeply interdisciplinary book focuses on the enduring American preoccupation with captivity in a rapidly transforming world. Captivity is a trope that appears in both ordinary and fantastic iterations here, and Susan Lepselter shows how multiple troubled histories of race, class, gender, and power become compressed into stories of uncanny memory.


“Lepselter relates a weave of intimate alien sensibilities in out-of-the-way places which are surprisingly, profoundly, close to home. Readers can expect to share her experience of contact with complex logics of feeling, and to do so in a contemporary America they may have thought they understood. This is Lepselter’s gift of ethnographic theory and insight—that coming from compassion for those on alert to their own capacities for contact with extreme foreignness, she keeps her keen mind firmly grounded in the realities of contemporary social wayfinding. The writing is luminous; the argumentation rigorous. World-making has never been more deeply understood, or more transporting.”
—Debbora Battaglia, Mount Holyoke College