Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

Research, Reviews, Conferences

Posts Tagged ‘popular culture




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:

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.

Sophia Centre Conference: July 2010

Bath 2

The Bath Literary and Scientific Institution, founded in 1824.

The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture
Department of Archaeology, History and Anthropology
University of Wales, Lampeter

Sophia Centre Conference
24-25 July 2010
Bath Royal Scientific and Literary Institute, Bath, England


Call for Papers

This conference will, for the first time, bring together academics to
investigate the theory and practice of astrology in the modern world,
from roughly 1700 to the present day.

Astrology is ‘the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and
events on earth, and the tradition that has thus been generated’
(Patrick Curry). It is a part of modern culture which arouses powerful
feelings from loyal devotion to passionate hostility. It is feared by
evangelical Christians and despised by sceptical scientists, yet is an
unquestioned feature of the popular media. It is described as magic or
psychology, and as a path to spiritual understanding or scientific
truth, and is often classed as a New Age discipline. It is mentioned in
passing in books on the sociology of religion yet is almost completely
ignored in the literature on popular culture. Where academic studies do
exist they are largely sociological or psychological investigations
designed to solve the problem of why belief in astrology persists in the
modern world.

Papers may consider
. the life and work of influential astrologers
. the transmission and lineage of ideas
. questions of tradition and innovation
. the relationship of theory to practice
. the cultural context of astrological ideas
. the role and function of astrological practice

While the focus is on the modern west, appropriate papers may be
accepted on non-western cultures.

It is expected that most papers will be 20 minutes + 10 minutes
questions, although we may accept shorter presentations for reports.

Please send proposals, including a 200 word abstract and 50 word
biography, to Dr Nick Campion,, by 1 November 2009.

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