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Sociology and Anthropology

Ryan Cook

Ryan Cook posing on Popocatepetl volcano, central Mexico, March 2003, after participating in an offering to Don Goyo, the volcano spirit.Ryan Cook posing on Popocatepetl volcano, central Mexico, March 2003, after participating in an offering to Don Goyo, the volcano spirit.

Lecturer in Sociology and Anthropology


Social and Cultural Anthropology
Science and Technology Studies
Anthropology of Religion and Ritual


Apocalypticism and technospirituality among new religious movements       Knowledge and expertise in mainstream and marginalized sciences   Disasters, illness, and conceptions of the environment                             Citizen science and crowdsourcing research


PhD Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Chicago (2004)
MA  Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Chicago (1998)
BA Cultural Anthropology, St. Cloud State University (1996)

Courses Taught

Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology
Paranormal & Supernatural                                                                       Religious Perspectives on the Environment

Recent Publications

Cook, R.J., (2014).  Absence of Evidence: How Chen Tao Became a “Suicide Cult.” Journal of Religion and Violence, vol. 2, no. 1: 45-93.

Reed, J., Cook, R.J., Raddick, M., Carney, K., & Lintott, C. (2013). Participating in Online Citizen Science: Motivations as the Basis for User Types and Trajectories. P. Michelucci (Ed.),Handbook of Human Computation (pp. 695-702). Berlin: Springer.

Cook, R.J. (2013). I Didn’t Want to Be One of the Contaminated People: Confronting a Mystery Illness in a Rural American Landscape. Somatosphere: Science, Medicine, and Anthropology.

Murphy, S., & Cook, R.J. (2010). Alien Images: UFOs, Photography, and Belief. Saint Joseph, Minn.: Befuddled Press.

Cook, R.J. (2008) Prólogo. M.I. Palleiro (Ed.) Yo Creo, Vos ¿Sabés? Retóricas del Creer en los Discursos Sociales [I Believe, You Know? Rhetorics of Belief in Social Discourse] (pp. 13-16). Buenos Aires: Universidad de Buenos Aires, Instituto de Ciencias Antropológicas.

Cook, R.J. (2008). O Fenómeno de “Abdução Alienígena” e as Experiências Religiosas [The “Alien Abduction” Phenomenon and Religious Experiences]. F. Fernandes, J Fernandes, and R. Berengel (Eds.), Fátima e a Ciência: Investigação Multidisciplinar das Experiências Religiosas [Fátima and Science: Multidisciplinary Investigation of Religious Experiences] (pp. 155-66). Centro Transdisciplinar de Estudos da Conciência (CTEC), colecção “Ciência e conciência,” 2. Porto: Ésquilo.

Recent Talks and Posters

Visitor Studies Association Annual Conference (July, 2013) “Insights for Informal Science Institutions from Citizen Science Projects.” Poster presented in Milwaukee, WI.

Michigan Technological University (March, 2013) “Blurring Boundaries, Contesting Claims: Four-and-a-Half Projects in the Anthropology of Expertise.” Department of Social Sciences, Houghton, MI.

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (November, 2011) “Nonexpertise: Negative Space or Negation of the Negation?” Montreal, QC.

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting (November, 2010) “Damned If You Don’t, Damned If You Do: Anthropology in the Cultic Milieu.” New Orleans, LA.

Truman State University (March, 2010) “The Hills Are Alive: Folkloric Continuities in a Volcanic Risk Zone.” Folklore Studies Program, Kirksville, MO.

Society for the Anthropology of Religion Annual Meeting (April, 2007) Panel presentation, “Worlds in Collusion: Entangling Religious and Scientific Fields.” Phoenix, AZ.