Dr. Christopher Laursen is a social and cultural historian of religions, science, and nature focusing on modern America and the world. He is based at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW). He teaches in Graduate Liberal Studies, History, and Religious Studies. Learn about his course offerings, projects, and talks, or contact him through this website.
Images of Dr. Laursen’s talks, courses, and publications featuring his writing.
“SUPER NATURAL” STUDIES
Dr. Laursen is best known for his studies of how people experience and try to explain the super natural in modern times. That is, the extraordinary, the fantastical, the anomalous, the preternatural – that which has yet to be effectively explained, but could be, one day. Documented super natural experiences are very diverse. They are reported globally, across history. Many individuals have experiences that they find very difficult to explain, and that perhaps even changed their lives. Others love the popular culture around the super natural, and want to learn more about its historical basis. The topic actively draws people in.
Studying and discussing the super natural entices people to think, speak, and write critically and openly about boundary-work between religions, sciences, nature, cultures, even self. What boundaries are made to define the world that we share, and how do we effectively examine things that push those boundaries? The study creates thoughtful dialogues that are much needed on these bigger topics around human experiences and knowledge-making. The study of the super natural reveals complex relationships between the natural world, the human imagination, psychology, and religion. It provides a gateway to better understanding our past and our present, our world and ourselves.
Christopher holds a PhD in History from the University of British Columbia (2016), and an MA in History from the University of Guelph (2009). He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Psychical Research, and the Society for Scientific Exploration.
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 has a chapter forthcoming in Believing in Bits: Digital Technology and the Supernatural edited by D.W. Pasulka (American Cosmic, Heaven Can Wait) and Simone Natale (Supernatural Entertainments) to be published by Oxford University Press.
Christopher has two major projects in the works. Mischievous Forces, looks at how people experienced the poltergeist phenomenon and how researchers have reimagined it as psychophysical. A second yet-to-be-titled project currently in the works examines family lineage in relation to recurrent psychical experiences.
For very useful, balanced, and accessible resources on this emerging field of interdisciplinary study, Christopher recommends the following websites:
- The Society for Psychical Research’s excellent Psi Encyclopedia offers informative entries on a variety of phenomena written from a balanced perspective. Wikipedia entries on these topics tend to be biased and unreliable.
- The historian Andreas Sommers’ Forbidden Histories: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Science and Magic (But Were Afraid to Ask).
- The writer David Metcalfe’s Liminal Analytics blog Exploring the Outer Edges of Society and Mind which includes the insightful weekly feature “Psi in the News.”
- The anthropologist Jack Hunter collects his thoughts and wonderful projects on his blog.
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.