Michael Kinsella

Affiliated Researcher


Alternative Spirituality and New Religious Movements, Cognition and Imagination, Folk Belief and Folk Narrative


B.A. Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles (2003)

M.A. Folk Studies, Western Kentucky University (2007)

Ph.D. Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara (2017)


Kinsella’s major research interests include extraordinary experiences, the psychology of spirituality, and consciousness studies. In collaboration with others and sponsored by UC, Riverside’s Immortality Project and the John Templeton Foundation, he is currently working on a quasi-experimental field study of the near-death experience movement.


Folklore of the Afterlife: Baby-Boomers, Near-Death Experiences, and the Birth of a Spiritual Movement

“The Inventory of Non-Ordinary Experiences” (with Ann Taves and Michael Barlev)


Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat  (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi).  

“Near-Death Experiences and Networked Spirituality: The Emergence of an Afterlife Movement,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 85 (1): 168-198.

“How to Know You've Survived Death: A Cognitive Account of the Popularity of Contemporary Post-mortem Survival Narratives” (with Claire White and Jesse Bering), Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, in press.

“Hiding in Plain Sight: The Organizational Forms of ‘Unorganized Religion’” (with Ann Taves), in New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion, Steven J. Sutcliffe and Ingvild Gilhus, eds. (Durham, UK: Acumen Publishing), 84-98.  

“Abduction Experience,” “Near-Death Experience,” and “UFO,” in Ghosts, Spirits, and Psychics: The Paranormal from Alchemy to Zombies, Matt Cardin, ed. (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO).