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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). Learn about his course offerings, projects, and talks, or contact him through this website.
Dr. Laursen is best known for his studies of how people experience and try to explain the supernatural 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 supernatural 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 supernatural, and want to learn more about its historical basis. The topic actively draws people in.
Studying and discussing the supernatural 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 supernatural 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).
His work has appeared in Jeffrey J. Kripal’s Super Religion (2016), Jack Hunter’s Damned Facts (2016), and the magazine Fortean Times. He 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. His book project, Mischievous Forces, looks at how people experienced the poltergeist phenomenon and how researchers have reimagined it as psychophysical.
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.
Christopher’s latest publication is “The Poltergeist at the Intersection of the Spirit and the Material: Some Historical and Contemporary Observations” in Jeffrey J. Kripal’s edited volume Super Religion. In it, he provides background on religious ideas about the poltergeist in relation to material and affective experiences.
Christopher’s other recently published works include “The Transmediumizers,” co-written with the speculative fiction writer Eden S. French. It appears in Damned Facts: Fortean Essays on Religion, Folklore, and the Paranormal, edited by the anthropologist Jack Hunter, founder of the journal Paranthropology, and featuring a preface by the historian of religions Jeffrey J. Kripal. The essay argues that we have clearly entered what the American writer Charles Fort referred to as “Intermediatism,” an era in which humans truly are able to become transhumans – beyond human.