P09
Cryptozoology: animals out of place or time

Convenors:
Samantha Hurn (University of Exeter)
Gregory Forth (University Of Alberta)
Location:
Room 2
Start time:
16 September, 2011 at 9:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

Cryptozoological entities epitomise Douglas' maxim 'matter out of place'. Rather than decreasing as scientific knowledge increases, sightings and accounts of cryptids surface with a frequency which demands serious academic scrutiny. This panel seeks to engage with these enigmatic creatures.

Long abstract:

Etymologically cryptozoology comes from the Greek kryptos which can be translated to mean 'hidden', 'unknown', 'secret', 'enigmatic' or 'mysterious'. Cryptozoology is thus best understood as the study of animals which, in the eyes of 'Western' science, are extinct, unclassified or unrecognised. However, as anthropologists are only too aware, 'scientific' categorisation and explanation is just one of a myriad of systems available to humans to enable them to classify and make sense of the world around them. In many cultural contexts, myth, folk classification and lived experience challenge the 'truth' expounded by scientists. The sheer wealth of anecdotal sightings, combined with a widespread and dogged willingness amongst a range of ethnographic informants to believe in the existence of creatures such as zombies, goat suckers, and thunderbirds, creatures which lurk in the realms of myth and superstition and defy 'rational' scientific explanation, makes cryptozoology of prime anthropological interest. Cryptozoological entities epitomise Douglas' maxim 'matter out of place' in the contemporary world. Moreover, rather than decreasing as scientific knowledge increases, sightings and accounts of cryptids continue to surface with a frequency which demands serious academic scrutiny. Consequently, the proposed panel seeks ethnographic case studies and critical engagement with the theoretical issues they raise.