Dr. Deana Weibel

Dr. Deana Weibel


Professor; Interim Assistant Chair

Office: 227 Lake Michigan Hall

Phone: 331-3346

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ethnoethereal 

Deana Weibel, PhD (UC San Diego, 2001) is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses primarily on religion, especially the topics of pilgrimage, sacred space, the mutual influence of scientific and religious ideas on each other, and religion and space exploration. Her early fieldwork took place in France at pilgrimage sites (sometimes understood by pilgrims as “energy” sites) like Rocamadour and Montségur. She has also conducted research at the pilgrimage center of Chimayó, New Mexico. More recent work focuses on religion as a motivation for and influence on space travel and outer space-based sciences. She has also studied the history of anthropology, particularly the overlap of her own family’s role and the role of anthropology in the exhibition of Philippine Igorot people in fairs and expositions during the early 1900s. She is the co-founder and co-organizer of Roger That! A Celebration of Space Exploration in Honor of Roger B. Chaffee, a two-day conference that has been an annual Grand Rapids, Michigan event since 2017.


  • Crane, Hillary and Deana Weibel (eds.) 2012 Missionary Impositions: Conversion, Resistance, and Other Challenges to Objectivity in Religious Ethnography, edited volume on the topic of the ethical complications of fieldwork among proselytizing interlocutors.

Recent and Upcoming Publications:

  • Weibel, Deana.L. (2020) "The Overview Effect and the Ultraview Effect: How Extreme Experiences In/Of Outer Space Influence Religious Beliefs in Astronauts". Religions 11 (8) 418.(a special issue called "The Mutual Influence of Religion and Science in the Human Understanding and Exploration of Outer Space" edited by Deana L. Weibel and Glen E. Swanson). https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/11/8/418/htm
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2020) Book Review:  "Space Tourism: The Elusive Dream: edited by Erik Cohen and Sam Spector, Bingley, Emerald Publishing Limited, 2019, vi+ 330 pp., $115 (hardback), ISBN 9781789734966." (2020): 1-4.
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2020) "'Maybe you were put here to be the answer': Religious overtones in the new Space Force recruitment video." The Space Review. May 11, 2020. https://www.thespacereview.com/article/3942/1
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2020) "Magnificent isolation: what we can learn from astronauts about social distancing and sheltering in space." The Space Review. March 23, 2020. https://www.thespacereview.com/article/3903/1
  • Weibel, Deana.L. (2020) "Following the Path That Heroes Carved into History: Space Tourism, Heritage, and Faith in the Future". Religions 11, (1) 23. (a special issue called "Faith in Spiritual and Heritage Tourism" edited by Michael A. Di Giovine and Mohamad Sharifi-Tehrani) https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/11/1/23
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2019) “Mock Rituals, Sham Battles, and Real Research: Anthropologists and the Ethnographic Study of the Bontoc Igorot in 1900s ‘Igorrote Villages,’” in Histories of Anthropology Annual. Volume 13, University of Nebraska Press.
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2019) “Medieval ’Miracle of Equilibrium’ or Contemporary ‘Sanctuary of Rock-Hard Faith’?: How Digital Media Guides Visitors’ Experiences at the Shrine of Rocamadour, France,” a chapter in the edited volume Religious Uses of Mobile Apps for Palgrave Macmillan’s Contemporary Anthropology of Religion series
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2019) “Astronauts vs. mortals: space workers, Jain ascetics, and NASA’s transcendent few.” The Space Review
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2017) “Space exploration as religious experience: Evangelical astronauts and the perception of God’s worldview.” The Space Review
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2015) Kindle edition, 2016 Print edition) “Pennies from Heaven: Objects in the Use of Outer Space as Sacred Space” in Touching the Face of the Cosmos: On the Intersection of Space Travel and Religion;  Weibel, Deana L. 2015 ’Up in God’s Great Cathedral’: Evangelism, Astronauts, and the Seductiveness of Outer Space” in The Seductions of Pilgrimage: Afar and Astray in the Western Religious Tradition.

Recent and Upcoming Presentations:

  • January 2020, “One Giant Leap (of Faith): Astronaut Religiosity and the Experience of Being in Outer Space” (poster presentation) at the NASA Human Research Program Investigators Workshop, Galveston, TX. 
  • November 2019, “Inevitability, Adaptablity, Destiny: Religious and Non-Religious Arguments for a Human Future in Outer Space” at the Tennesee Valley Interstellar Workshop, Wichita, Kansas;
  • May 2019, “Something Beyond What We Understand”: Shifting between Scientific and Religious Models of the Universe in Space Professionals’ Conceptualizations of Outer Space” at the Society for the Anthropology of Religion meetings, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • November 2018, “The Overview Effect and the Ultraview Effect : How Extreme Experiences in Outer Space Affect Religious Beliefs in Astronauts” at the American Anthropological Association meetings, San Jose, California
  • May 2017, “’Time from Eternity to Eternity’: Space Exploration and the Astronaut experience of God’s Worldview” (co-authored with Joshua Ambrosius) at the Society for the Anthropology of Religion Meetings, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Social Media: Deana L. Weibel-Swanson on Facebook, @ethnoethereal on Twitter.

Page last modified September 8, 2022