They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves: The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

Synopsis

Since its emergence in the 1960s, belief in alien abduction has saturated popular culture, with the ubiquitous image of the almond-eyed alien appearing on everything from bumper stickers to bars of soap. Drawing on interviews with alleged abductees from the New York area, Bridget Brown suggests a new way for people to think about the alien phenomenon, one that is concerned not with establishing whether aliens actually exist, but with understanding what belief in aliens in America may tell us about our changing understanding of ourselves and our place in the world.

They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves looks at how the belief in abduction by extraterrestrials is constituted by and through popular discourse and the images provided by print, film, and television. Brown contends that the abduction phenomenon is symptomatic of a period during which people have come to feel increasingly divested of the ability to know what is real or true about themselves and the world in which they live. The alien abduction phenomenon helps us think about how people who feel left out create their own stories and fashion truths that square with their own experience of the world.

Excerpt

The salient characteristic of the traumatic event is its power to in
spire helplessness and fear.

—Judith Herman

It starts with fear and opens up into exploration.

—Jean, alleged alien abductee

Welcome to SPACE

In the summer of 1999 Henry, one of the alleged alien abductees I interviewed for this project, invited me to attend a meeting of the SPACE (Search Project for Aspects of Close Encounters) support group for abductees and other experiencers of paranormal phenomena. Henry has been facilitating such SPACE meetings since 1992. SPACE's Statement of Purpose, as it appears in the organization's newsletter, the SPACE Explorer, reads:

The support and research group gives UFO experiencers a chance to
share openly in a comfortable social setting and to explore experi
ences on the unknown frontier of close encounters. This interactive and
proactive program tries to help by providing understanding; caring sup
port; nonjudgmental, meaningful feedback unencumbered by belief sys
tems; and professional resources. In our search for truth, we hope to en
courage experiencers toward real empowerment by overcoming fears;
creating new life skills; nurturing transformation; and, for those who
wish, conducting proactive interaction with the unknown.

The meeting that I attended took place in the apartment of a member who lives in a doorman building on the Upper East Side of New York City and focused on open sharing with other experiencers. I was struck by the sense of fellowship among attendees. There were eighteen people at the meeting I attended, including me. Attendees were asked to bring . . .

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