1st Edition

UFOs, the Absurd, and the Limit of Anthropological Knowledge Imagining the Impossible in Chile

By Diana Espírito Santo Copyright 2024
    232 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers an ethnographic and conceptual analysis of contemporary UFO phenomena, focusing specifically on Chilean ufology and the ufological ‘absurd’, nonsensical instances for their experiencers in which there is no conceptual way out. It asks how anthropology can come to terms with what is not said, not known, with what is in the dark, or even with what both ‘is’ and ‘is not’. The work draws on three years of participant observation with empirical ufologists, amateur sky watchers, and contactees of varying kinds in Chile. The chapters mobilize three main bodies of literature to elucidate the ufological absurd: negative theology, anthropology of play and deceit, and the physics of dark matter. They explore notions of parallax, paradox, and trickster anthropology. The author takes UFO phenomena, specifically the absurd aspects, as a heuristic with which to posit a conversation between domains; a conversation which highlights darknesses, finiteness, the limits of representation and media in anthropology, and that could perhaps signal the route to a new language. Consideration is given to how not-knowing can be a space of extreme productiveness for the discipline. The argument put forward is that only by doing an anthropology that looks outside of itself for conceptual inspiration can we come to terms with the non-representable, the un-conceptualizable, the fully paradoxical. This innovative book will be of particular interest to scholars of anthropological theory and religion.


    1 Parallax

    2 Paradox

    3 Deceit

    4 Dark

    5 Trickster


    Diana Espírito Santo (PhD University College London) is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Her previous book with Routledge is Spirited Histories: Technologies, Media, and Trauma in Paranormal Chile (2022).