Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Deborah Whitehead

Second Advisor

David Shneer

Third Advisor

Jeremy Smith


This thesis project is an interdisciplinary study of four popular musicians: Sun Ra, David Bowie, Christian Vander, and Janelle Monáe. These four performing artists work within science fiction and religion through the stories, music, and fantastic personae they create, making space for religious thought and experience. These artists make an occult world present not just through their lyrics, but through their music, their personae, and their bodies, all wrapped up in an “occultural boogie." This thesis traces a lineage shared between Western esoteric traditions, metaphysical religions, and science fiction, placing the four artists in that same line of “occulture.” This project is also concerned with how each of the four artists make the paranormal present in the world. I chart the material, corporeal, and sonic worlds these artists create for their listeners. By placing these science fiction musicians in both a historical lineage and a physical space, this work demonstrates the religious work science fiction and popular music conducts in individuals’ lives. To understand how people enchant their world, we must look towards popular culture.