As mentioned a couple of times before, I am going to Toronto next weekend to join the IAHR World Congress. It only happens every five years, and is a big happening in the fields of religious studies/Religionswissenschaft. This year there will also be a considerable presence of esotericism research. Marco Pasi, Cathy Gutierrez and Allison Coudert are hosting a large panel on “Western esotericism and its boundaries”, which, by systematically tackling the issue of the cultural and geographical boundaries of this concept will no doubt be an important occasion for this field of research. In addition there is the “Seduced by Science” panel, which I co-host with Tessel M. Bauduin. For anybody who’s interested, I attach more details about these two panels below.
Western esotericism and its boundaries:
Between discourses of identity and difference
In the last twenty years it has become customary for specialists to define esotericism as “western.” This has a series of implications that are usually left in the background and not addressed explicitly. The purpose of the panel is to discuss precisely these aspects, namely: Why should esotericism be defined as western in the first place? Where do we want to draw the boundaries of the “West”? Are Jewish and Islamic forms of esotericism to be included in “western” esotericism, and if not, why? Finally, if we decide that we want to reject the tag “western,” what are the possible alternatives? In what way could we open up the study of esotericism to multiculturality? Could we do this by studying possible historical influences or rather by using a comparative approach that focuses on possible common patterns and analogies? The panel will address the use of esotericism as a theoretical designation in the construction of identity and difference while negotiating geographical and ideological boundaries. It will do so by referring to specific historical examples taken as case studies and/or by critically discussing existing models for the definition of western esotericism.
Panel for the IAHR quinquennial world congress (Toronto, August 15-21, 2010)
Convenors: Allison Coudert (University of California at Davis, email@example.com), Cathy Gutierrez (Sweet Briar College, firstname.lastname@example.org), Marco Pasi (Universiteit van Amsterdam, email@example.com)
Steven Wasserstrom (Reed College; firstname.lastname@example.org), “Is Judeo-Islamicate Hermeticism ‘Western Esotericism’?”
Wouter J. Hanegraaff (University of Amsterdam; email@example.com), “Platonic Orientalism and Western Esotericism”
Gordan Djurdjevic (Simon Fraser University; firstname.lastname@example.org), “A web of relations: Interpreting Indian Tantra and Yoga as forms of esotericism”
Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam; email@example.com), “The origins of the concept of ‘western esotericism’ in the context of 19th century occultism”
Anita Stasulane (Daugavpils University; firstname.lastname@example.org), “The construction of a new theosophical identity: the Roerich movement”
Henrik Bogdan (University of Gothenburg; email@example.com), “The Holy Order of Krishna and the migration of western esotericism into a Hindu context”
John L. Crow (Florida State University; firstname.lastname@example.org), “Placing Western Esotericism on the Map: Exploring the Geographic Distribution of a Modern Occult Organization”
Kennet Granholm (University of Stockholm; email@example.com), “The West – non-West Dynamic in European Esotericism”
Søren Feldtfos Thomsen (University of Aarhus; firstname.lastname@example.org), “The Risk of Reification: Arguing the Case for Discourse Analysis in the Study of Esotericism”
Egil Asprem (University of Amsterdam; email@example.com), “Boundaries and the problem of comparison in esotericism research”
Seduced by Science: The culture of science and religion in the early 20th century
Presiding: Egil Asprem (University of Amsterdam); Tessel M. Bauduin (University of Amsterdam).
Cecile Wilson (Exeter University), “The Intersection of Science and ‘Practical Mysticism’ in the Rosicrucian Order AMORC, 1917-1926”.
William Ramp (University of Lethbridge), “Traces and Truths: Science and Revelation in the Edwardian Cult of Art”.
Tessel M. Bauduin (University of Amsterdam), “Artists as Modest Instruments of the New Era: Science, Religion, and the Avant-Garde”.
Gemma Kwantes (University of Amsterdam), “Science in Yehuda Ashlag’s Thought”.
Orlando Fernandez (Exeter University), “Esotericism and the Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics”.
Francisco Santos Silva (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), “Crowley and the Unconscious”.
A complete program of the congress, with dates, times, locations and everything else, can be downloaded from the conference website.
Back to writing my own paper, then…