I study and research the following: Cold War history, particularly espionage and the more unusual aspects of the conflict, like the training of psychic spies; political and cultural histories of postwar Canada; conspiracy theories and those who believe them; UFOs and the supernatural; (pseudo)science and "cranks;" Atlantic Canadian literature and culture; public history; satirical political movements and actions; mortality and death studies, particularly near-death experiences; and documentary film. What unites all of this is a curiosity about what people believe and why, the importance of trust between people and institutions, and a desire to help the world, in whatever small way I can, become a better place through information literacy and critical thinking.
I'm working on several projects at the moment. My book about the history of Canada's UFO investigation, Search for the Unknown, is now available from McGill-Queen's University Press. This book is based on my PhD dissertation. I continue to work on UFO and conspiracy theory related projects, including a chapter about emotion and the moon landing hoax theory for an edited book about conspiracy theory and extremism, and an article about the Marysburgh Vortex.
I'm (slowly) working on a book called The Crank Files, the subject of my SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship. This book will feature a curated selection of so-called "crank" letters received by the Canadian government during the postwar years, examining the relationship between citizen and state, and providing some historical context to current debates about conspiracy theory, post-truth, and trust in government.
I've also begun researching the ethics of espionage. This combines my interests in Cold War history and espionage with my experience teaching ethics, especially feminist ethics of care. I'm specifically working on a paper about Karen Cleveland's spy novel Need to Know as an exemplar of feminist ethics of care in action, in the contemporary intelligence world.
A list of my publications is below:
2022 Search for the Unknown: Canada's UFO Files and the Rise of Conspiracy Theory. McGill-Queen's University Press.
John Zada, Literary Review of Canada, July-August 2022
Chris Rutkowski, Winnipeg Free Press, 21 May 2022
David Clarke, 4 August 2022
2022 "Stuff Stories: A Flying Saucer," NiCHE: Network in Canadian History and Environment, 25 July.
2020 "UFOs in Canada," The Canadian Encyclopedia, October 20.
2019 "Moon Landing Hoax," "Death of Stephen Hawking," and "Project Blue Beam" entries in Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History, edited by Christopher Fee and Jeffrey Webb. ABC Clio.
2017 "Canada, UFOs, and Wishful Thinking," ActiveHistory.ca, February 10.
2016 "The Whale That Slapped the Nova Scotian: 'Bizarre news reports, media framing, and the Folk," Acadiensis Blog, June 27.
Scholarly Journal Articles
2020 "Michael W. Burke-Gaffney and the UFO Debate in Atlantic Canada, 1947-1969," Scientia Canadensis 42(1): 54-74.
2018 "Social Media, the Folk, and Bizarre Stories of Nova Scotia," Canadian Journal of Media Studies 16 (Winter): 76-98
2017 ""Then the Saucers Do Exist?": UFOs, the Practice of Conspiracy, and the Case of Wilbert Smith," Journal of Canadian Studies 51(3): 665-696.
2017 “The Funeral Director and His Film,” Studies in Social Justice 11(2): 307-315.
2017 “Causing a Ruckus: Complicity and Performance in Stories of Port Moody,” Public History Review 24: 38-53.
2017 “Never Mind the Ballots: The Edible Ballot Society and the Performance of Citizenship," Contention: A Multidisciplinary Journal of Social Protest 5(2): 1-27.