6th ESSWE Conference: Western Esotericism and Deviance

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism
contact email: 

in cooperation with 
Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies
University of Erfurt, Germany6th ESSWE Conference Western Esotericism and Deviance
Augustinerkloster, Erfurt, Germany, June 1-3, 2017

One of the master narratives in the study of Western esotericism is that esoteric ideas, authors and currents have, for the most part of Western history, been subject to processes of othering, marginalization, rejection or prohibition by dominant or mainstream cultural and religious discourses. For some scholars, this exclusion has been one of the main criteria for defining the very concept of ‘Western esotericism’. However, recent approaches that have highlighted the entanglement of esoteric ideas and mainstream culture point to the need of developing a more nuanced picture of the relationship between esoteric and mainstream discourse, in pre-modern as well as contemporary times. The conference theme ‘Western Esotericism and Deviance’ thus calls for a closer examination of this master narrative by specifically addressing the social and cultural embeddedness of esoteric ideas, authors and currents in Western history.

Crucial questions to be addressed during the conference may be:

  • (How) can we evaluate or measure the deviant or marginal status of esoteric ideas, authors, or currents?
  • Are polemics against esoteric ideas, authors or currents evidence for their marginal acceptance or rather their wide distribution and large appeal in a given historical context?
  • What are the driving forces behind the rejection, othering and marginalization of esoteric ideas, authors, or currents?
  • Is the talk about ‘deviance’ only the product of scholarly stereotypes or misconceptions?
  • Can we distinguish different forms or types of ‘deviance’ in the study of Western esotericism?
  • How do polemics against esoteric ideas, authors and currents differ across time periods?
  • Is ‘occulture’ a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries only?
  • What are the motivations and strategies of ‘secrecy’ and ‘concealment’ in different strands and periods of Western esotericism? To what extent are they a response to perceived ‘deviance’?

A detailed description of the conference topic can be found here.

Keynote sessions with: Marion Gibson, Olav Hammer, Jay Johnston, Martin Mulsow, Marco Pasi, and Kocku von Stuckrad.

Presentations should last no more than 20 minutes. Papers are invited in English. We would like to encourage panel organizers to engage in innovative presentation and discussion formats.

Please send your paper or panel proposal to esswe6(at)uni-erfurt.de. Please have a look at thesubmission guidelines.

Important dates:

  • Deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals: November 15, 2016
  • Notification of acceptance and beginning of registration: January 15, 2017
  • Early bird conference fee: January 15 to March 31, 2017
  • Normal conference fee: April 1 to May 31, 2017

Payment method: TBA.

Conference chairman and main organizer: Bernd-Christian Otto (Max Weber Centre, University of Erfurt).

Academic Committee: Egil Asprem, Henrik Bogdan, Carole Cusack, Christine Ferguson, Bernd-Christian Otto.

The conference will take place at the Augustinerkloster in the beautiful old town of Erfurt, Germany. The conference site provides up to 90 beds ranging from 65 € (single room) to 95 € (double room). These rooms, which are pre-booked until 31 March 2017, must be reserved individually: please contact the Augustinerkloster for further details (www.augustinerkloster.de; 0049-361-576600) and provide the following password to access the pre-booked share: ESSWE6!

There is a fee waiver for a limited number of student helpers; please contact the local organizing committee for further details. There is also a limited amount of conference bursaries: please see theESSWE website for details.