A benevolent and sceptical inquiry: exploring 'Fortean Geographies' with the Mothman

Deborah P. Dixon

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20 Citations (SciVal)


In this article I delineate the character of a determinedly non-academic, yet avowedly critical body of literature, namely Forteanism. I begin by outlining the goals and objectives of Forteanism as it strives to establish a `critical space' for itself through its relationship with mainstream science and popular accounts of the paranormal. Forteanism treats both as economies of belief, focusing attention on the practices by which reports of the anomalous, the aberrant and the strange are expelled from — or `damned' by — those bodies of knowledge that require order, certainty and truth. Trenchantly sceptical of all forms of systematized knowledge, Forteanism is, nevertheless, taken with the disruptive potential of what are termed `extra-geographies,' whereby the rigid spatial categorizations of cartographers and planners provoke, and are on occasion overturned by, flights of imagination and fancy. In the second half of the article I undertake a biography of one of Forteana's key figures, the Mothman, noting how this anomalous figure has been constructed through eyewitness accounts, media reports, a research text and, finally, a Hollywood film. In doing so, I hope to draw out the extra-geographies that are conjured up by a Fortean project per se, but also to bring forth a partial geography of Forteanism itself, indicating how, and in what form, it has arisen as a critique of systematic forms of knowledge. I conclude with some comments on the resonances between a benevolent and sceptical Forteanism and those analyses within human geography that find fertile ground in the interplay between the `there and the not-there.'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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