Headshot of Dr. Christopher Laursen

Dr. Christopher Laursen is a social and cultural historian of religions, science, and nature focusing on modern America, Britain, and the world. He is based at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington (UNCW). He teaches both online and in person for Graduate Liberal Studies, History, and Religious Studies on the history of religions, history of medicine and the sciences, environmental history, animal history, microhistory, and the history of experiences which have transformative sociocultural effects. He was awarded with UNCW’s Excellence in eLearning Award in 2018. Learn about his course offerings, projects, and talks, or contact him through this website.

Below art: Joe Simboli (Peace); 
Latasha Dunston (In Solidarity)

Joe Simboli's peace poster, 1968.

We are in this together.

Black Lives Matter

GALLERY

Images of Dr. Laursen’s courses, publications featuring his writing, and presentations.

  • Poster for the course HST 456/533: Animals in American History features various historic images of animals and people.
  • Poster for the course HST 329: Superhumans: Medicine, Mind, and Body in the Modern World features various historic images related to the course theme.
  • The 'zine project Christopher created with artist and design Sylvana d'Angelo shows her artwork with the image of a classical statue and the publication itself.

STUDIES OF OUR “SUPER” NATURE

Dr. Christopher Laursen studies how people experience and try to explain extraordinary things. Especially in relation to death and dying, dreaming, visions, hauntings, and the uncanny. 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 and cultures themselves. 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 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 it is 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 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.

RESEARCH TOPIC KEYWORDS: history of religion, history of science, environmental history, Fortean studies, premonition dreams, visitation dreams, life after death, afterlife, near-death experiences, poltergeist, apparition, xenoglossy, possession, hauntings, extra-sensory perception, intuition, imagination, creativity, self-guided spirituality, new religions, syncretism, psychical research, parapsychology, physical/metaphysical, human/non-human animal relations, animal history


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. Most recently, Christopher 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. His latest work seeks to better enable people to share their extraordinary experiences in ways that contributes to the humanities’ role in consciousness studies.


MEDIA

The 'zine project Christopher created with artist and design Sylvana d'Angelo shows her artwork with the image of a classical statue and the publication itself.

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.

The logo for Mysterious Universe on a purple background.

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.

The cover of the web story from University Affairs with the publication's logo and headline "Making sense of the paranormal." The subheading reads "Researchers from various disciplines are seeking not to debunk strange events, but rather to understand how people engage with them, and what this reveals about the human experience."

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.


COURSES

Click here for more on Dr. Laursen’s courses.


TALKS

Click here for a list of Christopher’s talks.


PUBLICATIONS

Click here for a full list of Christopher’s publications.