Special Panel: Esoteric and Occult Cinema (Esotericism & Occultism Area)

deadline for submissions: 
November 24, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Southwest Popular/American Culture Association
contact email: 

Special Panel CFP : Esoteric and Occult Cinema

In the Esotericism & Occultism Area of the Southwest Popular/American Culture Association

Annual Conference, Albuquerque, February 19-22, 2020

Given that the various senses in which the descriptor “religious” can be applied to film, or a film, are generally uncontroversial (for example, containing religious content/imagery; conveying a religious message; having religion or religions as a significant component of the plot; being treated ‘religiously’ or inspiring religion, such as Star Wars), debate and discussion of religion and film tends to focus on the details of particular films or on broad claims about the religious/mythological character of the cinema.  The reverse seems to be true of the constructions “occult film” and “esoteric” film: the premise of the esoteric/occult as a genre category is contentious, but so are attempts to define specific films as esoteric or occult in character, or categorize the work of particular directors who are interested in or practice esotericism and/or occultism as significantly influenced by these beliefs.  Although some directors have been explicit in this regard, including Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky, many others remain in a category of speculation.  This panel is intended to explore not only any and all senses in which a film (or film in general) might be considered esoteric and/or occult, but also relationships and influences between film and filmmakers and esoteric and occult practice (examples might include the influence of the Fraternitas Saturni on some inter-war German Expressionist filmmakers, claims that Val Lewton was directly acquainted with pre-LaVeyan Satanists in New York, perspectives on interpretations of the claimed relationship between influential Scientologists and film celebrities, and so forth).

While three or four related papers will be selected for this special panel, the Area welcomes any submissions relating to esotericism & occultism in popular culture, and any proposals intended for this panel that are not selected for the panel will still be integrated into other panels.  If you would like to make a proposal or to receive the full CFP for the Area, please contact Dr. George Sieg, the Area Chair.


Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

(505) 440-2105