Dr. Deana Weibel

Dr. Deana Weibel



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, with field visits taking place at "space sites" throughout the U.S., including the Johnson and Kennedy Space Centers, the Mojave Air and Spaceport, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the JHU Applied Physics Lab, and Spaceport America. Weibel spent a month in 2019 at the Vatican Observatory, studying "the Pope's Astronomers." 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.


  • Weibel, Deana L., 2022. A Sacred Vertigo: Pilgrimage and Tourism in Rocamadour, France. Monograph examining 20+ years of pilgrimage and tourism at Rocamadour, focusing on its contested character, alternate interpretations of the site, and how visitors, site managers, and the site itself work together to create meaning for visitors. 
  • Crane, Hillary and Deana L. 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. (2023) "Honoring and dishonoring the dead in outer space: How a Virgin Galactic spaceflight sparked a scandal in anthropology" The Space Review, September 25, 2023. https://thespacereview.com/article/4657/1
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2023) "The highs and lows of extreme tourism: The Titan accident and commercial expeditions to space and the deep sea" The Space Review. July 31, 2023. https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4630/1​
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2023) Astronauts as Chosen People: Religious Ways of Understanding the Astronaut Experience and Life After Space,” a chapter for the edited volume Religion & Outer Space, edited by Eric Mazur and Sarah McFarland Taylor, for publication by Taylor and Francis.
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2023) "Cultural considerations in space exploration: Insights for NASA’s Artemis 2 mission" The Space Review. June 5, 2023. https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4596/1 
  • Di Giovine, Michael and Deana L. Weibel, (2023) Co-authored with Michael Di Giovine, “Anthropology Perspectives on Pilgrimage” for the edited volume Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Pilgrimage: Historical, Current, and Future Directions, edited by Heather Warfield. Peter Lang Publishing.
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2023) “Sherpas on the Moon: The Case for Including ‘Native Guides’ in Space Exploration,” for the edited volume, Reclaiming Space: Progressive and Multicultural Visions of Space Exploration, edited by James Schwartz, Linda Billings and Erika Nesvold. Oxford University Press.
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2022) "Boozy Chimps in Orbit and Intoxicating Saturns: Where space pop meets Tiki culture." The Space Review. July 5, 2022. https://www.thespacereview.com/article/4414/1​
  • Weibel, Deana L. (2021) "Black ugliness and the covering of blue: William Shatner's suborbital flight to 'death,'" The Space Review. October 18, 2021. https://thespacereview.com/article/4265/1​
  • Schwartz, James SJ, Sheri Wells-Jensen, John W. Traphagan, Deana Weibel, and Kelly C. Smith. "What do we need to ask before settling space?" Journal of the British Interplanetary Society 2023 (2021).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.

Recent and Upcoming Presentations:

  • August 2023. "Reflections of Humans in Space," a workshop for the International Space University's 2023 Space Studies Program at the Instituto Tecnológico de Aeronáutica in São José dos Campos, Brazil. 
  • April 2023. “Avoiding Annihilation: Human Salvation through Planet B and Other Spiritual Missions of the Private Space Industry,” University of Southern California, hosted by the Confronting the Second Space Age: From Cosmic Speculation to Astro-Capitalism Working Group and the Department of Anthropology.
  • June 2023. "An Outrageous View of the Heavens: The Ultraview Effect as a Cognitive and Cultural Response to the Panorama of Deep Space", Cultural WG webinar – Deep Space: Awe Or Fright?. Moon Village Association, Vienna, Austria (presented online). 
  • November 2022. “Outer Space as Sacred Space: On the Religious Lives of Space Professionals,” Fyrecon Education Conference for Writers and Artists, Salt Lake City, Utah (presented online).
  • April 2022. "A Conversation with Deana Weibel, Author of A Sacred Vertigo," hosted by Michael Di Giovine, editor of the Lexington Books series The Anthropology of Pilgrimage: Heritage, Mobility, and Society
  • November 2021. “A Sacred Vertigo” for the Sacred Journeys session of the Explorers Club Pathfinders Symposium. (Virtual conference)
  • July 2021, “Through the Courtesy of Mr. R. Schneidewind”: “Igorrote Villages” as Anthropological Projects and Research Sites in the Early Twentieth Century” at the joint Virtual Conference of EASA's Europeanist Network (EuroNet) and History of Anthropology Network (HOAN) (Virtual conference)
  • May 2021, “Bringing Anthropology to Outer Space: Sacred Travel, Destiny, and the Motivating Force of Optimism,” Explorers Club Chicago/Great Lakes Chapter meeting,
  • March 2021. “‘How Can You Steward What You Don’t Know?’: Religious and Spiritual Motivations for and the Understanding from Robotic Space Exploration,” Explorers Club Northern California Chapter meeting, 
  • 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. 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. 

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

Page last modified October 1, 2023