Esotericism at the AAR in San Diego 2014? Urgent CfP

The deadline for submitting papers to this year’s American Academy of Religion (AAR), in sunny San Diego, is fast approaching. That means time is running out if you want to present a paper on Western esotericism, too. The Western Esotericism Group of the AAR has a pretty diverse call for papers out, and entertains possibilities of several panels including collaborative ones (with e.g. the Afro-American Religious History Group and the Queer Studies group). The ESSWE, now as an associated organisation of the AAR, is also opening up for separate panels. So if you want to take part in what is going to be one of the biggest conference events for esotericism scholarship this year (besides the ASE’s biannual conference), it’s time to finish up that paper proposal! I should also add that the Esotericism Group is up for review this year, so ensuring high quality and good turnout really does matter to the future of esotericism panels at the AAR. Worth keeping in mind.

Below is the full CfP:

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Looking through the Occult – talks available as podcasts

Voices through the ether

Voices through the ether

Last November I took part in an interesting interdisciplinary conference at the Humboldt in Berlin, on “Looking through the Occult: Instrumentation, Esotericism, and Epistemology“. It moved in the landscape of media studies, history of science and technology, religious studies, art history, and esotericism, and was organized by a scholarly network interested in what they call “nonhegemonic knowledge”:

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Transhuman Visions – Heterodoxology goes to Silicon Valley

I haven’t been long in the vicinity of high tech’s ground zero, but here it is: my occasional work on transhumanism is getting a new spin. It appears I’m scheduled to speak at a transhumanist conference in the East Bay – with such profiles as Max More and Natasha Vita-More giving keynotes. The headline teaser promises a spectacular circus of speakers:

Transhuman Visions poster

BRAIN-HACKING CHEMIST / POWERLIFTING CRYONICIST / PSYCHEDELIC PHILOSOPHER / IMMORTAL CARTOONIST / SINGULARITY PROPHET / POLYGAMIST / MORMON / AI REVOLUTIONARY / TRANSCENDENCE HYPOTHESIZER / SCANDINAVIAN OCCULTIST/ + Much Much More

Guess which one is me.

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Gerardus van der Leeuw Award to The Problem of Disenchantment

"The Problem of Disenchantment" wins the first Gerardus van der Leeuw Award.

“The Problem of Disenchantment” wins the first Gerardus van der Leeuw Award.

My PhD dissertation, The Problem of Disenchantment, has just won its second award. The Dutch Association for the Study of Religion (NGG – Nederlands Genootschap voor Godsdienstwetenschap), one of the oldest such national organisations in the world, recently publicised the winner of the Gerardus van der Leeuw Award. It’s the first time this prize, named after the famous Dutch phenomenologist of religion (and founder of the NGG), is awarded, which makes it a great honour.

The prize will formally be awarded at next year’s NGG meeting, which in 2014 will coincide with the big conference of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR) at the University of Groningen. (That conference is by the way promising to be a very exciting, as well as busy, event. Among the keynote lecturers are Bruno Latour and Carlo Ginzburg. In the shadow of such celebrity names, I’ve now been asked to put together a panel on some central concepts of my dissertation – which comes in addition to a panel session I’m already arranging together with Markus Davidsen and Carole Cusack. So lots to do.)

Last summer, The Problem of Disenchantment won ESSWE’s PhD Thesis Prize, making this the second award.

New Antiquities (extended deadline for CfP)

Akhenaten futuristicBack in September the call for papers for a very interesting workshop was released at the Ancient Esotericism blog (and elsewhere). “New Antiquities: Transformations of the Past in the New Age and Beyond”, put together by Almut-Barbara Renger (Freie Universität Berlin) and my good colleague Dylan Burns (Universität Leipzig), calls attention to the myriad uses and imaginings of antiquity in contemporary religious discourses.  A fascinating field that has received quite some attention from religious studies scholars interested in such things as the construction of tradition or mnemohistory. What’s particularly interesting about this workshop is that it aims to mobilize the antiquity specialists as well, who, a bit too often perhaps, have tended to avoid dealing with questions related to such modern “reception history”. It’s also an excellent platform for bridging the studies of ancient and contemporary esotericism.

The deadline for submitting paper proposals has now been extended to January 31. Below follows the description of the workshop, pasted from the extension notice:

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Conference on “Esoteric Practices” – ASE call for papers

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.

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Looking through the Occult: Conference on Instrumentation, Esotericism and Epistemology in the 19th Century (Humboldt U, Berlin)

Humboldt

Humboldt University at Unter den Linden 6, Berlin.

I’m excited to participate in a wonderful conference at Berlin’s Humboldt University on November 14-15: “Looking through the Occult: Instrumentation, Esotericism and Epistemology in the 19th Century”. The conference is free and open to the public, so if you are in Berlin and have an above average interest in topics such as spiritualism and mediums, ether physics, spirit photography, early radio technology and x-rays, this should be a good treat. Check out the nice website for more information on the programme, how to get there, and what to read up on in advance.

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Enchanted Modernities in Amsterdam

Enchanted Modernities

Enchanted Modernities: A conference in Amsterdam

An exciting three-day conference opened its doors in Amsterdam this morning (September 25, 2013). Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy and the Arts in the Modern World is the first conference of a new research network coordinated from the University of York and sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust. The conference in Amsterdam is hosted by the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, with the collaboration of the Ritman Library and the Theosophical Library – both places hosting exhibitions as part of the programme.

The focus of the conference is on Theosophy and art – not an unfamiliar topic, of course, but one which is now starting to see more systematic and interdisciplinary attention. From the conference website:

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ESSWE4 round-up – reviews and impressions from across the esosphere

Attendees are starting to get some distance from the ESSWE4 conference in Gothenburg now, and a number of reviews and impressions have appeared on blogs during the last week. Below you’ll find a round-up of pieces written from different perspectives. My own two cents you’ll find here.

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The biggest esotericism conference yet – ESSWE4 and the schizophrenic life of academics

A few days ago I returned from Gothenburg, Sweden, after the fourth international conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (or #ESSWE4 for those following the tagboard). It was slightly larger than the three previous conferences (in Tübingen, Strasbourg, and Szeged); more than 90 papers were presented, there were discussion panels, keynotes, and night-time events. The conference was spread out over four days, and it needed every minute of the daily 9-hour schedule.

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