They Know Us Better Than We Know Ourselves

The History and Politics of Alien Abduction

247 pages

11 illustrations

August, 2007

ISBN: 9780814799222



Also available in


Cultural Studies


Bridget Brown teaches writing at Montclair State University. She received her Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.

All books by Bridget Brown

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.


  • “A fascinating addition to the literature.”


  • “Brown argues convincingly that alien abduction stories speak to several key issues in our culture, from environmentalism to changing ideas about reproduction. Extending far beyond textual readings, she instead tells the stories of individual people, treating them with respect, but with a critical lens as well. Her analysis of the role of ‘experts’ in alien abduction-their power and the misuses of that power-is utterly compelling.”

    —Melani McAlister, George Washington University

  • “Brown’s brilliant study is so much more than a book about alien abduction—it is a flesh-and-blood inquiry into the nature of belief in a technologically advanced society.”

    —Andrew Ross, author of Fast Boat to China