Conference panel: Seduced by Science

This has already been disseminated through other channels, but I’ll post it here anyway. My colleague Tessel Bauduin and I are organizing a panel at the next Quinquennial World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). It’s in Toronto, it’s in August, and the title of the panel is “Seduced by Science: The culture of religion and science in the early 20th century”. We’re accepting paper proposals until April 15. See below for the details.

Call for papers
IAHR Quinquennial World Congress
“Religion: A Human Phenomenon”
Toronto, August 15-21, 2010

Panel: Seduced by Science: The culture of religion and science in the early 20th century

Panel Organizers: Egil Asprem and Tessel M. Bauduin, Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Deadline call for papers: April 15th 2010

The first half of the 20th century saw a radical transformation and fierce expansion of the sciences in western society. Both developments have had considerable impact on the conceptualization and experience of religion in the modern world. The success and prestige of the modern sciences have not only changed the way we think about religion, magic, and humanity’s place within the natural world, but it has also reformed the referential “common ground” of religionists, non-, and anti-religionists alike. This has had a large range of different and sometimes mutually exclusive implications, roughly following geographic as well as social and cultural boundaries: the perception of science and its relation to religion and religious meaning differed both from country to country, and between socio-cultural strata.

In some quarters, the 19th century “conflict between science and religion” continued as before, over the age of rocks and the origin of species. But in light of new scientific breakthroughs, old questions could also be asked in new ways. For example, controversies over vitalism, organicism and indeterminism provided fuel for intellectual as well as artistic, literary and even political re-appraisals of religion and spirituality. A blossoming of esoteric, occult and spiritualist notions sought alignment with recent scientific developments in the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and psychology, while some scientists in these disciplines looked to esoteric subjects for metaphorical and conceptual resources. Meanwhile the discipline of parapsychology sought professional recognition, while offering itself as a scientific battle station against atheism and philosophical materialism. All these developments fostered an anticipation that science might lead to a new enc hantment of the world. The impact can, in various ways, still be felt in the contemporary religious landscape.

The panel seeks contributions from interdisciplinary scholars of religious studies whose work intersect with the history of ideas, science, literature, art and the broader cultural history of the early 20th century. The starting point is that the cultural history of science and religion in the modern world is complex, multi-layered, dynamic and many-faceted, displaying the whole range of relations from polemical hostility on the one hand, to mutual fascination and forging of alliances on the other. Science and religion is furthermore seen to engage in reciprocal relations of exchange, not only of esthetics and rhetoric, but of semantics as well. The panel welcomes papers that look at specific case studies of the early 20th century culture of science and religion and its reflections in e.g. art, literature, academia, and popular culture, as well as papers on theoretical and methodological problems. “Early 20th century” is taken in an extended sense to cover roughly the period of scientific and religious change from 1880-1945. Exploring methodology and research questions from disciplines not commonly incorporated in the field of religious studies is encouraged.

Suggested research topics include but are certainly not limited to:
– Metaphysical philosophy (e.g. Bergson and many others);
– Reactions to (perceived) mechanism and causality;
– Intuition, inspiration, the Eureka moment and the cult of the scientific genius;
– Parapsychology and the university/scientific establishment;
– Science, science-fiction and religion;
– Science mysticism;
– Science and the Occult Revival;
– Scientific discourses of Theosophy, Anthroposophy or New Age-movements;
– Wave and radiation phenomena in the cultural discourse;
– Religious responses to quantum mechanics and the theories of relativity;
– The discourses of electric fluids, unified fields and the universal ether.

Proposals of max 400 words, together with a brief curriculum, should be send to Egil Asprem ( or Tessel Bauduin ( before April 15th 2010. At the conference, participants will be allotted 20 minutes to present their paper.

In addition to the abstracts, participants will be requested to submit their full paper before July 1st. The papers will be sent to all participants; at the panel session all participants are expected to have read each other’s papers and to be able to comment upon their own paper in relation to the other papers. Pending the quality of the submitted full papers we may investigate the possibilities of publication afterward

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 1:32 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] for departure for Toronto in a couple of weeks, where Tessel Bauduin and I will host a panel on Seduced by Science: The culture of science and religion in the early 20th century at the IAHR world congress. An update on the papers and speakers will follow […]

  2. […] Two panels As mentioned a couple of times before, I am going to Toronto next weekend to join the IAHR World Congress. It only […]

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