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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:


Pseudo-science” and parapsychology

Séances, spirit media, and communication with the dead


Faith healing


Palm reading

Clairvoyance and prophecy

Ghost stories and apparitions



New Age


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 ( and Eric Kurlander ( by AUGUST 1, 2012.





Saturday 10th September – Tuesday 13th September 2011

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom


This inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary

project seeks to investigate and explore the

enduring influence and imagery of monsters

and the monstrous on human culture throughout

history. In particular, the project will have a

dual focus with the intention of examining

specific ‘monsters’ as well as assessing the role,

function and consequences of persons, actions or

events identified as ‘monstrous’.

The history and contemporary cultural influences

of monsters and monstrous metaphors will also be


Papers, reports, work-in-progress, workshops and

pre-formed panels are invited on issues related to

any of the following themes:

* The monster through history

* Civilization, monsters and the monstrous

* Children, childhood, stories and monsters

* Comedy: funny monsters and/or making fun of

monsters (e.g. Monsters vs. Aliens, the Addams Family)

* Monstrous Avatars or objects

* Monsters and subjectivity

* Monsters and Sexuality

* Making monsters; monstrous births, childhood

* Mutants and mutations and freaks

* Technologies of the monstrous (including

Role Playing Games)

* Horror, fear and scare

* Do monsters kill because they are monstrous

or are they monstrous because they kill?

* How critical to the definition of monster

is death or the threat of death?

* Human ‘monsters’ and ‘monstrous’ acts? e.g,

perverts, paedophiles and serial killers

* Revolution and monsters

* Enemies (political/social/military) and monsters

* Iconography of the monstrous

* The popularity of the modern monsters; the

Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Vampires, Cannibals

* The monster in literature

* The monster in media (television, cinema, radio, internet)

* Religious depictions of the monstrous

* Metaphors and the monstrous

* The problematic attraction and admiration of monsters

* Monstrous (In)Humanity / (In)Human Monstrosity

* Monstrous Politics

* Critical Theories on the Monstrous

Papers can be accepted which deal solely with

specific monsters. This project will run

concurrently with our project on Space and Place –

we welcome any papers considering the problems or

addressing issues on Monsters and Space and Place

for a cross-over panel. We also welcome

pre-formed panels on any aspect of the monstrous

or in relation to crossover panel(s).

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday

25th March 2011.

If an abstract is accepted for

the conference, a full draft paper should be

submitted by Friday 8th July 2011.

300 word abstracts should be submitted to the

Organising Chairs; abstracts may be in Word,

WordPerfect, or RTF formats, following this order:

a) author(s)

b) affiliation

c) email address

d) title of abstract

e) body of abstract

E-mails should be entitled: Monsters Abstract


Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain

from using any special formatting, characters or

emphasis (such as bold, italics or

underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to

all paper proposals submitted. If you do not

receive a reply from us in a week you should

assume we did not receive your proposal; it might

be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look

for an alternative electronic route or resend.


* Sorcha Ni Fhlainn

Hub Leader, Evil Hub, Inter-Disciplinary.Net

School of English, Trinity College, Dublin,



* Rob Fisher

Network F rounder & Leader,


Freeland, Oxfordshire

United Kingdom


* Stephen Morris

Hub Leader

Independent Scholar

New York, USA



The aim of the conference is to bring together

people from different areas and interests to share

ideas and explore various discussions which

are innovative and exciting. All papers accepted

for and presented at this conference are eligible

for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected

papers may be invited to go forward for

development into a themed ISBN hard copy volume.

Some papers may also be invited for inclusion in

the Journal of Monsters and the Monstrous.

For further details of the project, please visit

For further details of the conference, please visit

Sponsored by: Inter-Disciplinary.Net

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