deadline for submissions: 
June 1, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
contact email: 

MEARCSTAPA Call for Papers/Presentations


BABEL 2017 Biennale


Organizers: Asa Simon Mittman of California State University Chico:; Thea Tomaini of The University of Southern California:


BABEL 2017 Biennale, Reno, NV

MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: The Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application) is organizing a session in which presentations discuss or depict the work and the risks of attempts to extend academic, professional, or scholarly legitimacy to the occult. 

Subjects can be derived from anywhere on the globe, can reflect any discipline of study or any genre, and can include any historical or literary period. We are looking for ways in which academics, philosophers, artists, clerics, musicians, writers, and collectors try to, or have tried to, make uncanny or occult subjects “work” as rational subjects. How much work is put into such an effort, and of what kind? And what are the risks? In the case of magic, witchcraft, and demonology in the medieval and early modern periods one could risk one’s own life. In the case of eighteenth and nineteenth century antiquarianism, the risks to one’s reputation could be dire if one did not collect the right objects and specimens or interpret them “correctly” according to mainstream academic thought or Imperialist ideology. Spiritualists of the nineteenth century also risked their professional reputations if they failed to reconcile their interests and “findings” with mainstream academic thought. The present-day acquisition and display of “occult” objects also presents risks, to academic reputation, to tourist interest, and to the never-ending pursuit of endowments and philanthropic gifts. It’s very hard work, and there are many risks. Sometimes one has to make it work.

Presentations can include ideas such as the following. Scholars like Roger Bacon, Marsilio Ficino, and Giordano Bruno worked diligently on their studies and experiments in natural magic and faced huge risks that their efforts would be branded as heresy. Witch hunters and self-proclaimed exorcists of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries tried to professionalize paranoia. Antiquaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries accumulated vast collections of ephemera, some of which included macabre or bizarre objects from all over the world. Spiritualists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries tried to professionalize and rationalize their efforts with experimentalism and through publication of their observations. Auction houses and museums of the present day face many challenges in how to sell, buy, exhibit, and interpret works of art and cultural artifacts that once had, or are still believed to have, occult significance. These are just a few examples of presentations that might be employed in this session.

We are also open to presentations that examine the study and teaching of these fields as forms of magic, of alchemy, enchanting and transforming students, tourists, administrations, kings, and other curious risk-takers. So how do the students, teachers, and curators of occult subjects work their own magic? In this sense, there are even further perils. How might we make risk work where this subject is concerned? Tell us how you work your magic on the job.

Presentations can be of a traditional format, or they can be multimedia explorations of the subject; they can employ art, music, film/TV, poetry, performance, or séance. We would love to see the specimens in your wonder cabinet!

Please send proposals of approximately 300 words by July 1, 2017 to Thea Tomaini at or Asa Mittman at