Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

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Call for Abstracts: A ‘SUPERNATURAL’ HISTORY OF CENTRAL EUROPE – 1870 – PRESENT

Call for Abstracts: “A ‘Supernatural’ History of Central Europe, 1870-present”

Editors: Eric Kurlander (Stetson U.) and Monica Black (U. of Tenn., Knoxville)

Deadline: August 1, 2012

Despite the ostensible “disenchantment of the world” proclaimed by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Europe has a rich modern history of occultism, folklore, paganism, and popular religion. Yet the “supernatural history” of this ethno- culturally diverse region, extending from the Rhine and Baltic in the North and West to the Vistula and Danube in the South and East, has yet to be written. To be sure, the last twenty years have witnessed a renaissance of interest in Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious practice since the late-nineteenth century. With the exception a few excellent monographs on occultism and parapsychology, however, historians have been slow to investigate less conventional aspects of the “supernatural” in Modern Central Europe.

We seek abstracts from scholars interested in exploring the new spiritualities, unique metaphysical experiences and practices, and novel explanations of the world that stood somewhere between natural scientific verifiability and the shopworn truths of traditional religion, and which flourished across Central Europe in the wake of the Second Industrial Revolution. We are keen to see submissions that integrate social, political, and cultural history with “supernatural” thinking and practice, broadly conceived. We are especially interested in submissions that will extend their analysis and explorations beyond national boundaries, connecting people, ideas, experiences, and movements interculturally and transnationally.

Obviously, profound complexities inhere in the term “supernatural”—and no less so in terms like “popular religion,” let alone “superstition.” All of these terms bristle with invidious distinctions and reifications imposed by those seeking to draw sharp contrasts between “orthodox” and “heterogeneous” manifestations of religion and between “science” and “popular belief”—which for our purposes might refer to various methods of explaining, knowing, and experiencing the world that somehow draw on the numinous or the metaphysical. Not only has the presence and broad scope of such practices and ideas not yet been fully explored, but they have also not been properly integrated into larger histories of Central European culture, society, and politics—despite the fact that they have from time to time been the cause of considerable friction.

By bringing together scholars from German, Austrian, Hapsburg, and Slavic Studies, we hope to address questions central to the study of Central European politics, culture, and identity in new ways. What meanings can we assign to the renewal of interest in occultism, “pseudo-science,” and folklore studies in the decades around the fin-de-siècle? How does the waxing or waning of these fields relate to questions of war and peace, revolution and reaction, crisis and stability? How have differences between “science” and “pseudo-science” been articulated in various moments and why? How did folklore, occultism, “pseudo-science” and other “supernatural” practices function as alternatives to organized religion at various moments in the Central European past? How was a fascination with the “supernatural” reflected in popular culture and the arts from the nineteenth century to today? What roles have popular superstition and everyday rituals played in Central European attempts to negotiate the trials of the twentieth century? What role did such rituals––“political religion” or otherwise––play in the legitimization of fascism, communism, and other forms of authoritarian politics before and after 1945? What influence did “supernatural” ideas and practices have in generating policies of ethnic cleansing, eugenics, and imperialism, or how can they been seen as a response to those policies? What were the differences East and West of the Iron Curtain after 1945? What are the implications in terms of class, gender, identity, and ethnicity?

Potential topics may include but are not limited to:

Occultism

Pseudo-science” and parapsychology

Séances, spirit media, and communication with the dead

Dowsing

Faith healing

Astrology

Palm reading

Clairvoyance and prophecy

Ghost stories and apparitions

Witchcraft

Homeopathy

New Age

Exorcism

Vampires, werewolves and other monsters

Pagan” religions

The horror genre, science fiction, and “fantastic” in film, art, and literature

If you are interested in contributing an abstract of not more than 500 words for consideration, please send it, along with your CV, to Monica Black (mblack9@utk.edu) and Eric Kurlander (ekurland@stetson.edu) by AUGUST 1, 2012.

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GHost: call for papers/ PRESENTATIONS/ PERFORMANCE


Call For Papers/ Presentations/ Performance: 

Hosting 6: “Absence – Haunted Landscapes”

Hosting 7: “Presence – Manifesting Ghosts

GHost invites proposals for papers, presentations, or performances of 30 minutes exploring the desire and attempt to materialise what is absent via the medium of haunted landscapes or through the manifestation of a ghost. We would like to hear from researchers within all fields – anthropology, art history, cultural studies, film studies, history, science, law, literary studies, parapsychology, psychology, philosophy etc. as well as practising artists.

The Hostings will take place in the Court Room, University of London, Senate House between 6.30 – 9.00pm on the 29th February and 14th March.

Please send a (working) title and an abstract of approximately 300 words, also include which Hosting you are submitting to and, if applicable, one or two pictures.  

Send these to Sarah Sparkes at: ghost.hostings@gmail.com 

More about GHost:

http://www.host-a-ghost.blogspot.com

http://www.ghost.hostings.co.uk

Deadline for submissions of proposals: 13th January 2012

Hostings 6: Absence – Haunted Landscapes

The Key Of Solomon, a medieval grimoire instructs magicians to seek out “places that lie concealed, distant and removed from the haunts of men. Wherefore desolate and uninhabited regions are most appropriate, such as the borders of lakes, forests, dark and obscure places, old and deserted houses, whither rarely and scarce ever men do come, mountains, caves, caverns, grottos, gardens, orchards…”

Could it be that this instruction suggests a common topography of the haunted landscape that such venues operate as amplifiers for achieving rapport with the dead? Perhaps it is the absence of life and the nature of our own loneliness that in fact haunts the landscape? Are places of tragedy imbued with spirits of their victims or is this just a romantic engagement, an imaginative association with a past event? Is it possible to use a particular landscapes to facilitate the experience of paranormal phenomena – in this respect can landscape serve like the séance room for the natural channelling of the spirit of place, or the dead souls of its past? Moreover, have artists and writers intuitively apprehended these landscapes to manifest a haunted aesthetic?

GHost invites submissions exploring these or other ideas associated with the Haunted Landscape.

Hostings 7: Presence – Manifesting Ghosts

Ghost Seance has the potential to summon spirits at any given location and time although 3:00 a.m. usually produces the best results.” (Taken from a website advertising a séance app. for smart phones)

Writers, psychical investigators, mediums, parapsychologists, illusionists, artists all have manifested ghosts in their own way. The writers mind conjures up ghostly apparitions, pinning down their fleeting forms with words. In the darkened séance room both psychical investigator and audience witness phenomena produced by the medium. Whether witnessed by believer or sceptic, the spirit announces itself, with a common ghostly language: wraps, moving furniture, unexplained scents, temperature changes, phosphorescent lights etc. In more recent times visual and auditory ephemera has been described and captured by paranormal investigators with the help of technological devices. This new language of the ghostly reappears in the haunted aesthetics of films such as Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape and in the work of contemporary artists such as Susan Hiller. When attempting to document ghosts, is it us or the ghosts who are controlling the means by which we describe and measure their presence?

GHost invites submissions exploring ghost-makers; their means, methods and their reasons for manifesting ghosts.

About GHost

GHost is a visual arts and creative research project which explores the various roles ghosts play in contemporary culture by bringing artists, writers, curators, researchers and others together. In homage to Duchamp’s wordplay “A guest + a host = a ghost”, we take on and explore the various roles of ghosts, guests and hosts in our activities. The project has been running since 2008 and we have organised exhibitions, performance nights and so-called Hostings, seminar-style workshops which serve as a forum for exchange between thinkers and makers, audience and practitioners. As a research project, GHost blurs the boundaries between the diverse research groups and audiences that exist for the paranormal and hosts events in which these groups can explore their various beliefs. As a visual arts project, GHost explores the illusionary power of art and artists to create what could be seen as a ‘haunted aesthetic’. Visual art exhibitions have been hosted by a John Soane church in East London, at the London Art Fair and the Folkestone Triennial Fringe while the Hostings have been held at Senate House, University of London.

GHost has been organising Hostings in association with the IGRS, School of Advanced Study, University of London since 2009.

http://www.host-a-ghost.blogspot.com

http://www.ghost.hostings.co.uk

CONTEMPORARY ESOTERICISM: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

STOCKHOLM UNIVERSITY

SWEDEN  

AUGUST 27-29, 2012

 

Keynote Speakers

Wouter J. Hanegraaff,

Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam

Christopher Partridge, Religious Studies, Lancaster University

Kocku von Stuckrad, Study of Religion, Groningen University

Deadline for Abstracts: March 30, 2012

Submit your abstract (approx. 200 words) along with a brief academic CV (approx 1 page) to: ContEso2012@gmail.com

The academic study of Western esotericism has blossomed in recent years; University departments and MA programs have been established, book series and journals launched, academic societies founded, and several international conferences and panels are organized every year. There is, however, still a major gap in scholarship on esotericism: very little research exists on contemporary phenomena. While some present-day phenomena related to esotericism, such as ‘New Age spiritualities’ and (neo)paganism, have been the focus of scholars in other fields, scholars working in the field of esotericism have largely neglected such developments. With a focus on early modern phenomena, scholarship in the field of Western esotericism has been predominantly historiographical in its approach, with a common reluctance to incorporate social scientific approaches. In recent years, however, serious attempts have been made to develop sociological approaches to the study of the esoteric/occult which are both compatible with historical approaches and forgo the biased presumptions of yesteryear. A fundamental challenge for the study of contemporary esoteric phenomena is that it is not sufficient to simply transpose theories, definitions and methodologies developed for the study of e.g. Renaissance magic to later manifestations of the esoteric. Studying contemporary phenomena poses intriguing possibilities, such as the opportunity to study esotericism in lived contexts, which unavoidably also introduce new problems. In general, several theoretical and methodological concerns need to be addressed if a proper study of contemporary esotericism is to succeed.

Suggested Topics

The primary aim of this conference is to place contemporary phenomena on the agenda of the study of esotericism. Thus we welcome papers dealing with contemporary and recent developments in “classic” esoteric currents – e.g. within Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and ritual magical currents – as well as esoteric developments of particular relevance today – e.g. Chaos Magick, Satanism, and (neo)paganism. We also strongly encourage papers dealing with theoretical and methodological issues that are particularly pertinent to the study of contemporary esotericism, as well as papers dealing with the societal, cultural, political, religious etc. contexts of esotericism today. This can include discussions on the role played by the esoteric in modern politics (e.g. the new right), grassroots activism (e.g. deep ecology and the animal rights movement), science (e.g. parapsychology, neurotheology, “New Age physics”), healthcare (e.g. alternative medicine), popular culture (both entertainment media and in broader contexts such as kitsch, consumer, and fan culture), and modern interactive communications media (e.g. mediatization and the effects of changing modes of mediation), as well as the simultaneous influence of these and other fields on esoteric notions, beliefs, and practices. General theoretical discussion on the potential usefulness of sociological terms and concepts such as globalization, secularization, and the post-secular in the study of contemporary esotericism is also encouraged. The conference should function as an interdisciplinary meeting place where scholars from a multitude of disciplines and with different approaches and perspectives can come together to learn from each other.

Additional information

The conference is arranged in conjunction with the 2012 EASR conference, also arranged in Stockholm, Sweden (at Södertörn University, August 23-26). Panels on esotericism, both historical and contemporary, are planned for the EASR as well, thus providing the opportunity to engage in extended discussion on these subjects, and of course lessening travel expenses.

More detailed information, including conference fee, will be made available at a later stage.

Conference organizers

Egil Asprem, PhD Research Fellow, Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam

Kennet Granholm, Assistant Professor, History of Religions, Stockholm University

Forthcoming volume on Contemporary Esotericism

The conference will function as the launching party for Contemporary Esotericism, the first volume specifically dedicated to the study of esotericism in the present day. The volume is published by Equinox Publishing and includes eighteen articles by well-established scholars as well as innovative younger researchers in the field. For more information, see the publisher’s webpage.


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