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The shape of Bigfoot: Transmuting absences into credible knowledge claims

Lewis, Jamie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1065-6017 and Bartlett, Andrew 2024. The shape of Bigfoot: Transmuting absences into credible knowledge claims. Cultural Sociology

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Abstract

Bigfoot exists. If not as a biological creature, then as a cultural object about which people know with a high degree of stability. It also exists as an object, which some people organise their lives around. Those who collect evidence of Bigfoot’s existence as a biological creature are known as Bigfooters. Among the most persuasive forms of evidence that they collect are witness accounts of encounters with Bigfoot. Since the 1960s, there have been organized efforts to collect and sort these accounts; for example, thousands are now available online through the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BRFO). Notably, many Bigfooters report that it was an encounter of their own which was the catalyst for them to get actively involved in this research. This paper is part of a larger project examining the epistemic community of Bigfooting, which has involved 166 semi-structured interviews with people involved in Bigfooting and the subject of Bigfoot. These interviews explore the way in which Bigfooters make and contest knowledge, and during these interviews scores of participants shared personal tales of their own close encounters. This paper adds to the work in the sociology of mystery by exploring the ways in which these stories are used to make knowledge claims. We argue that these stories ‘make room’ for Bigfoot by constructing an absence, an absence which can then be filled by what we know to be the ‘shape’ of Bigfoot, literally and figuratively. We also show how our interviewees present themselves as legitimate interpreters of these absences; when making an incredible claim in a field known for hoaxes, there is an imperative to be seen as credible and not credulous.

Item Type: Article
Status: In Press
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
History, Archaeology and Religion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Publisher: SAGE Publications
ISSN: 1749-9755
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 June 2024
Date of Acceptance: 5 June 2024
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 22:53
URI: https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/id/eprint/169598

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