History, History and Philosophy of Science, Reviews, Sociology

The definitive take on Bigfoot

Do a quick Google search for “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch” and near the top of the results you’ll find more than a few links to websites like this one, dedicated to the “scientific” exploration of the Bigfoot/Sasquatch mystery, offering everything from geographical data and personal accounts of the latest sightings, to some of the coolest t-shirts money can buy—evidence that Bigfoot mania still grips some not insignificant segment of the American population. But while other folks might consider serious inquiry into the existence of the Sasquatch to be an exercise in futility, as Sumit Paul-Choudhury notes in a recent review for the New Scientist Joshua Blu Buhs’ new book investigating the social significance of the myth itself proves quite worthwhile. Paul-Choudhury writes:

That belief in mythical animals is a product of social change is central to [Joshua Blu Buh’s] Bigfoot, an exhaustive study of wild-man myth-making in the 20th century. Buhs’s book starts out… suggesting that the Himalayan legend of the yeti became “folklore for an industrial age” because it meshed well with Britain’s post-colonial concerns and drew on popular fascination with far-flung places.…
Buhs goes on to describe how the search for Bigfoot and Sasquatch was dominated by the concerns of white, working-class men. For this disenfranchised group the quest was a validation of their lifestyle, skills and knowledge, which they perceived as being threatened by mass media, formal education and popular culture. The hunters’ desire to be accepted as scientific, while simultaneously disparaging the scientific establishment, makes for thought-provoking reading: there are obvious parallels with the attitudes of intelligent-design enthusiasts and climate change skeptics.

Thus drawing fascinating connections between the myth of Bigfoot and modern Americans’ relationship to wilderness, individuality, class, consumerism, and the media, Buhs new book offers the definitive take on this elusive beast.
Find out more about the book on our website or read Sumit Paul-Choudhury’s full review in the New Scientist.