Lepselter, Susan

Lepselter, Susan – Anthropologist, Educator

lepselter“Susan Lepselter joined Indiana University in 2007 after completing an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship at the Penn Humanities Forum at the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PhD in 2005 from the University of Texas at Austin in Folklore and Social Anthropology. Her research explores the poetics of both popular media and everyday life, focusing on themes of gender, class and the imagination, captivity narratives, and the interplay between public and private memory. She is interested as well in the boundaries between ethnography and fiction, and in new forms of expressive ethnography. Her dissertation, The Flight of the Ordinary: Narrative and Poetics, Power and UFOs in the American Uncanny, draws on fieldwork conducted in a UFO experiencers’ support group in Texas, and in a community near the secretive military base in Nevada known as Area 51, a center for uncanny American conspiracy theory. In addition to her primary research, she has studied prophetic narratives in a Christian, rural Texas setting, and has published articles on Native American mythology and on the politics of mid-20th century European folklore. She holds a joint appointment as Assistant Professor in the Departments of Communication and Culture and American Studies.”



Susan Lepselter – “Dreaming Across Cultures”

Books: The Resonance of Unseen ThingsE.T. culture: anthropology in outerspaces edited by Debbora Battaglia

lepselter“Susan Lepselter is an Associate Professor of Anthropology.  Her research explores the poetics of both popular media and everyday life in contemporary American culture, focusing particularly on captivity narratives, themes of gender and class, and discourses of memory and trauma in American social life.”



“The License.” In Writing Outer Spaces, ed. Debbora Battaglia. Duke University Press, 2005.

“Why Rachel Isn’t Buried in her Grave.” In Histories of the Future, eds. Susan Harding and Daniel Rosenberg. Duke University Press, 2005.

“The Politics and Poetics of Folklore: The Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, 1937-1947.” Roma (44-45), 1998.

From the Earth Native’s Point of View: The Earth, The Extraterrestrial and the Natural Ground of Home.” Public Culture 9(2): 197-208, 1997.

Topic of Transformation: Some Aspects of Myth and Metaphor.” Studies in American Indian Literatures, vol. 10: 148-160, 1993.

Courses Taught:

CMCL-C450 Gender, Culture and Narrative

CMCL-C314/ AMST 350 American Captivity

Stories of everyday life: media, ethnography and the representation of the self

Seminar: Ethnophenomenologies Discourses of Repression: The poetics and politics of American Trauma

Source: Performance and Ethnography: Faculty

More Writings:



Susan Lepselter Awarded the 2017 Bateson Prize by Karen Strassler – Cultural Anthropology – CulAnth.org

The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity, and UFOs in the American Uncanny (University of Michigan Press)




Past Lectures

Ordinary Marks and Monstrous Mutilations: UFOs, the Natural Body and the Poetics of Power A lecture by Susan Lepselter

Title:     Colloquium: Susan Lepselter
Sharing:     Public
Start Time:     Friday March 26, 2010
Location:     501 N. Park Ave.
Url:     http://www.indiana.edu

  • Assistant Professor of American Studies and of Communication and Culture Indiana University Bloomington
  • Friday, March 26, 2010 1:30-2:30 p.m.
  • Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
  • Large Seminar Room (501 N. Park Ave)


Based on ethnographic research with UFO believers and uncanny conspiracy theorists in Texas and Nevada, this paper explores the construction of the natural and the unnatural in stories about the state and its impact on bodies. Looking at several spontaneously performed narratives about both fantastic and ordinary experiences, I argue that uncanny storytellers use intertextuality as a poetic and narrative technique to express affects and theories of power, freedom, and the unresolved trauma of colonization in the American West. Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology Colloquium



The Flight of the Ordinary: Narrative, Poetics, Power and UFOs in the American Uncanny – 2005 PhD, Susan Lepselter, University of Texas – Austin [Dissertation][Original and PDF printout]

UFO Stories: The Poetics of Uncanny Encounters In a Counterpublic Discourse – 1994, Susan Lepselter, University of Texas – Austin [DRAFT]

Abducting the Final Word: The Indeterminate Space of UFO Discourse – 1994?, Susan Lepselter,  University of Texas – Austin [DRAFT copies]