Ufology: The Origins of a “Science” in Popular Culture

  • Nina Kulenović Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
ufology, popular culture, sciencelike discourse, ideas about aliens, anthropology, culture and perception


The paper indentifies pop-cultural precursors to contemporary ufology, an unusual amalgamation of beliefs, conceptions and ideas, based on ontologically officially inexistent phenomena. The focus of the paper is on the socio-cultural context which enabled the constitution and/or transformation of the contingent semantic matrix which would interpret “strange phenomena in the sky” as alien aircraft. By contextualizing ufology within the framework of popular culture on the shoulders of which it initially stood, I will shed light on the political, ideological and ethical climate in which the initial UFO discourse emerged. The trail for further ufological research was opened by pointing out that pop-culture – in the age of dwindling trust in official institutions which is symptomatic of the second half of the 20th century, as well as the dismantling of the idea of science as a value-neutral and objective way of looking at reality – had already paved the way for a pseudoscientific/sciencelike discourse like ufology to strive to constitute itself as a “science more scientific than science itself”, and as “more objective than the objective”. In other words, as a epistemologically valid, methodologically standardized, institutionally grounded, fiscally viable and ethically superior scientific discipline.


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