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Esotericism in Practice: Sources, Methods, Theories (ESSWE Thesis Workshop at Stockholm University on February 20, 2018)

2017-10-19 21:15 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

Date and place: February 20, 2018, Stockholm University; Room U29, Geohust (Geology)

Description: Western esotericism is usually encountered in texts and images and studied in its ideational and aesthetic aspects. We know a lot about esoteric ideas, worldviews, and aesthetic conventions; but what were the people engaged in esoteric ideas doing? From magic and alchemy to mediumship and channeling, esotericism is not only theoretical but practical in nature. Accessing and analyzing esoteric practice, however, invites challenges that are rarely addressed in the field.

This year’s ESSWE Thesis Workshop will focus on the methodological and theoretical challenges of studying esoteric practice. What kinds of textual and non-textual sources can we use to address practices of the past? Can we access practice through philology? How do we do responsible ethnographic work with contemporary esoteric groups? Can we connect historical methods and social science methods? What sort of theoretical frameworks might help us grasp esoteric practices, both past and present? How does one write a thesis about esoteric practices? The workshop will address these and other questions through a combination of (I) masterclasses with three specialists focusing on different historical periods, and (II) thematic discussion groups where MA and PhD students get the opportunity to talk about their own work with leading scholars in the field. The workshop also includes a career advice session led by a panel of early-career esotericism researchers.

Workshop organizer: Egil Asprem (

Open for: MA and PhD students [note: membership of ESSWE required]. 35 slots available. Participation is free of charge, but registration is required. First come, first served!

To reserve a spot: please fill in the online registration form and await confirmation.



09.00-09.30: Registration and Coffee

09.30-09.45: Welcome by ESSWE President + Workshop organizer

PART ONE: ORATORY (Masterclass lectures by invited speakers)

09.45-10.30: Masterclass 1: Dr. Emmanouela Grypeou (Stockholm University)

Accessing Esoteric Practice in Late Antiquity

10.45-11.30: Masterclass 2: Dr. Liana Saif (Oxford University; Warburg Institute)

Accessing Esoteric Practice in the Middle Ages

11.45-12.30: Masterclass 3: Dr. Kennet Granholm (independent scholar)

Problems and Challenges with accessing Contemporary  Esoteric Groups

12.30-13.30 Lunch break

PART TWO: LABORATORY (Thematic discussions in expert groups w/board members)

13.45-14.45: Group discussions in expert groups. Each student gets to present their research topic and formulate questions to the group. Experts from the ESSWE board anticipated to be present: Andreas Kilcher (ETH), Boaz Huss (Ben Gurion), Egil Asprem (Stockholm University), Henrik Bogdan (Gothenburg University), Wouter J. Hanegraaff (University of Amsterdam, Birgit Menzel (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz), Bernd-Christian Otto (University of Erfurt), Yuri Stoyanov (Warburg Institute), and Helmut Zander (University of Fribourg) [changes may occur!].

14.45-15.15: Plenum Session: Each group summarizes the most important challenges and topics that surfaced during their discussions.

15.15-15.45 Coffee break

PART THREE: PhD and Early Career Advice

15.45-16.30: Per Faxneld and Manon Hedenborg-White lead a discussion of job/career related issues (application processes, job opportunities, alternative career paths) relevant to early-career scholars.

16.30-16.45: Wrapping up and formal end to workshop


16.45-17.15: ESSWE Members’ Meeting

18.00: Visit to the Swedenborg Library and the New Church, Tegnérlunden 7 [not confirmed]

19.00: Dinner and drinks (at own expense)

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