This call for papers for the next ASE conference (Association for the Study of Esotericism) has already circulated for a while, but since the deadline is still two months away (January 15 to be exact) it can still be circulated some more. The ASE is the American sister organization of the ESSWE, and the idea has been that these two societies will offer their biannual conferences in alternating years. Thus, we had ESSWE4 in Gothenburg in 2013, and will get ASE5 at Colgate University, Hamilton NY in 2014.
The topic that ASE has chosen for next year’s conference is I think an excellent one: “Esoteric Practices: Theories, Representations and Methods”. It’s an excellent idea because, quite surprisingly, there has been very little research on practice in this field. This is largely due to a bias towards “ideas” and “systems of thought” and historical genealogies, and a lacking engagement with social scientific research communities (anthropologists and ethnographers above all). That does not mean that no such research exists – it does, and especially outside of the context of “esotericism scholarship” as institutionalised in the family of journals, book series and scholarly societies that identify as such. But conceptualisations of “esotericism” (whether as a theoretical object or a historical phenomenon) have not sufficiently looked at the practical dimension or engaged the research that already exists. There are notable exceptions, of course, but not many.
The call opens for a broad engagement with such perspectives. Quote:
“We are seeking proposals for papers exploring the many dimensions of Western esoteric practices, including theories,representations and methods of practice viewed from cultural, practical, religious and aesthetic fields of inquiry. We encourage papers that address the conference theme in terms of diverse types of representation, including arts and literature, as well as methods that reflect specific theories of esotericism, either historically or in a contemporary context. We invite proposals on magic, alchemy, astrology, ritual practice, mysticism, spiritualism, occultism, hermeticism, neo-paganism, contemporary esoteric movements and teachers, Asian influences on Western traditions, and other relevant topics.”
Let’s hope that this conference can stimulate a broader discussion about esoteric practice, and not least help facilitate a much-needed interdisciplinary dialogue between historical, anthropological, sociological, psychological and cognitive approaches that may all be of relevance here.
According to the ASE website, Jean-Pierre Brach (Sorbonne) and Sarah Iles Johnston (Ohio State) have already been confirmed as keynotes.
The conference itself is scheduled for June 19-22. Check the full call for papers (pdf) for information on how to submit an abstract for a paper or a panel session.