Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace

Aliens in America: Conspiracy Cultures from Outerspace to Cyberspace

by Jodi Dean

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Overview

In a provocative analysis of public culture and popular concerns, Jodi Dean examines how serious UFO-logists and their pop-culture counterparts tap into fears, phobias, and conspiracy theories with a deep past and a vivid present in American society. Aliens, the author shows, provide cultural icons through which to access the new conditions of democratic politics at the millennium. Because of the technological complexity of our age, political choices and decisions have become virtually meaningless, practically impossible. How do we judge what is real, believable, trustworthy, or authoritative? When the truth is out there, but we can trust no one, Dean argues, paranoia is indeed the most sensible response.

Aliens have invaded the United States. No longer confined to science fiction and tabloids, aliens appear in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, at candy counters (in chocolate-covered flying saucers and Martian melon-flavored lollipops), and on Internet web sites. Aliens are at the center of a faculty battle at Harvard. They have been used to market AT&T cellular phones, Milky Way candy bars, Kodak film, Diet Coke, Stove-Top Stuffing, skateboard accessories, and abduction insurance. A Gallup poll reports that 27 percent of Americans believe space aliens have visited Earth. A Time/CNN poll finds 80 percent of its respondents believe the U.S. government is covering up knowledge of the existence of aliens.

What does the widespread American belief in extraterrestrials say about the public sphere? How common are our assumptions about what is real? Is there any such thing as "common" sense?
Aliens, the author shows, provide cultural icons through which to access the new conditions of democratic politics at the millennium. Because of the technological complexity of our age, political choices and decisions have become virtually meaningless, practically impossible. How do we judge what is real, believable, trustworthy, or authoritative? When the truth is out there, but we can trust no one, Dean argues, paranoia is indeed the most sensible response.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801434631
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 03/17/1998
Series: 4/28/1999
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.83(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jodi Dean is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She is the author of Solidarity of Strangers: Feminism after Identity Politics.

What People are Saying About This

Thomas L. Dumm

"Jodi Dean is an emerging scholar of the first rank. In Aliens in America she has deployed both a sophisticated political theoretical framework and a concern about what it means that so many American citizens are coming to believe the claims of aliens. Dean engages in a serious investigation of how popular culture connects to shifts in the political assumptions of a mass public. This is vital and needed work, not just for the field of political theory, but more generally for public intellectuals."

Elayne Rapping

"A fascinating and provocative book. Dean's major insight about the cultural and political importance of UFO/alien/space discourse and representation at the millennium is convincing and compelling."

Michael Shapiro

"Jodi Dean's Aliens in America is a rare find in the literature of the social sciences. It is entertaining and, at the same time, a politically perspicuous and textually acute reading. It treats, from another angle of vision, what Thomas Pynchon mapped in his Vineland: the more paranoid recesses of American culture. And her analysis of a variety of popular culture genres speaks effectively to the issue of the reliability of beliefs in relation to the functioning of democracy."

From the Publisher

"Dean presents a scholarly analysis of America's fascination with aliens, alien abduction, conspiracy theories, and the like.... She is especially interested in discovering the connections between New Age beliefs and our social and political lives and the ways people judge what is real, authoritative, and trustworthy.... This study will help scholars understand the dynamics of democratic politics as the millennium approaches."

Vivian Sobchack

"Aliens in America is a provocative book that grounds contemporary interest in the 'science fictional' in concrete social practice. Focusing on alien abduction narratives as symptomatic of a cultural crisis in notions of truth, evidence, and experience, Dean traces the breakdown of 'consensus reality' and tracks the emergence of 'sensible paranoia' as an appropriate response to the incoherence of our increasingly mediated, depoliticized, and 'abducted' lives."

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