Welcome to the academic website of Dr. Christopher Laursen, a social and cultural historian, writer, researcher, and educational developer. Christopher focuses on how experiences with the natural world have transformative sociocultural effects, largely related to the cultural imagination, religions, and sciences. Geographically, he focuses on North America and Britain in the world, mainly in the nineteenth century through twenty-first century.
From 2017-2021, Christopher taught at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW) for Graduate Liberal Studies, History, and Religious Studies. He was awarded with UNCW’s Excellence in eLearning Award for his online teaching in 2018. More recently, he taught for Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, in Cultural Studies and for the Rhine Education Center.
Today, Christopher is an Educational Developer with the Office of Teaching and Learning at the University of Guelph in Ontario. For more information on Christopher’s professional work, you can find him on LinkedIn.
Christopher’s scholarly intersections have brought him to study and teach on the supernatural; radio and soundworks; psychology, medicine, the sciences; environmental history; animal history; and microhistory. Learn about his current and previous course offerings, projects, and talks, or contact him through this website.
To better understand each other takes compassion, empathy, and action. ♥ It takes collaboration to make change.
Art: Joe Simboli (Peace); Latasha Dunston (In Solidarity) Tal Bright (Inclusive Pride Flag)
Images of Dr. Laursen’s courses, publications featuring his writing, and presentations.
STUDIES OF OUR “SUPER” NATURE
Dr. Christopher Laursen studies how people experience and try to explain extraordinary things. Especially in relation to dreaming, visions, hauntings, the uncanny, and consciousness. The extraordinary has been given many labels. For example, unreal, hallucinations, misperceptions, spiritual, religious, psychic, paranormal, and supernatural.
The ecology of extraordinary things challenges the limits of how we understand consciousness, notions of linear time, and our environments. This ecology could be called, as the scholar of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal notes, super nature – as two words, with super as an adjective representing that which is beyond what can be explained – yet.
As an interdisciplinary humanities scholar, Christopher works on creating tools to better understand the extraordinary, focusing on transformative experiences that reshape individuals’ lives as well as cultures. He advocates including diverse experiences otherwise ignored in academic scholarship and popular culture to more effectively consider how extraordinary nature is.
Christopher explores the boundary areas of experience and knowledge-making –
- where human meets non-human,
- where science and technology intersects with religion, affect, and experience,
- where insights into the nature of consciousness reside in the liminal.
Extraordinary and transformative human experiences are more than something “super natural” – although that term is a great way to delve into such experiences. When engaging with these boundary areas, we learn more about what is it to be human? As well as what is this world in which we live?
Christopher’s research and teaching focus on:
- why encounters, interactions, and experiences expand how people conceive nature and consciousness, social relations, and culture
- the ways in which human intuition and imagination create new knowledge or ways of being
- how dreams, visions, and anomalous or unexpected experiences inspire people in meaningful, often transformative ways
While commonly reported across history and in all sorts of different cultures, experiences and encounters on the boundaries of consciousness and nature have tended to be socially marginalized or misunderstood. In spite of dismissive doubts and pop culture misrepresentation, extraordinary experiences are common and they enrich human understanding on the meanings of life.
These experiences deserve a place at the table rather than being stigmatized. They are fruitfully examined through the combined lenses of the interdisciplinary humanities, the sciences, and ecology. This is achieved by contextualizing the greater body of such experiences through historical, cross-cultural perspectives – and learning from the life experiences shared with one another.
EDUCATION & PROJECTS
Christopher holds a PhD in History from the University of British Columbia (2016), and an MA in History from the University of Guelph (2009). His work has appeared in Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Super Religion (2016), Jack Hunter’s Damned Facts (2016), and the magazine Fortean Times. He co-authored a chapter, “Psychic Naturalism,” with scholar of Indigenous and Religious Studies Elorah Fangrad and scholar of Environmental Studies Rick Fehr in Greening the Paranormal (2019), edited by Jack Hunter for August Night Books, an imprint of White Crow Books. Christopher also has a chapter in Believing in Bits: Digital Technology and the Supernatural edited by D.W. Pasulka (American Cosmic, Heaven Can Wait) and Simone Natale (Supernatural Entertainments) published by Oxford University Press. His PhD dissertation examined how modern Britons and Americans changed how they explained and studies the poltergeist phenomenon from 1848 to the 1990s. Currently, he is working on some new collaborative projects. Most recently, he is working with Rick Fehr on a book project about a 200-year-old poltergeist case, and is focusing on studies of precognition, dreaming, and after death communications.
5 December 2018: Paranormal Activity (trans)formation (Vancouver: Zine Club, 2018) is a ‘zine project, the second collaboration between Christopher and Vancouver-based artist and ‘zine publisher Sylvana d’Angelo. It features various paranormal experiencers recalling a specific moment in an experience they had in a sentence or two, followed by an annotation on how it transformed how they see the world. It is being shown at the Vancouver Art Book Fair, Prague Zine Fest, the Los Angeles Book Fair, and Miss Read in Berlin.
16 April 2018: Robbie Graham, author of Silver Screen Saucers and editor of UFOs: Reframing the Debate, interviewed Christopher about his doctoral and current research in relation to the poltergeist phenomenon for Mysterious Universe. Click here to read the interview.
7 Feb 2018: Diane Peters interviewed Christopher among many other Canadian scholars on the topic of studying the paranormal in University Affairs. An excellent overview of some fascinating research. Click here to read her article.