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Call for Papers: 8th International ESSWE Conference - Esotericism, Art and Creativity (5-7 July, 2021, University College Cork, Ireland)

2020-08-07 11:41 | ESSWE admin (Administrator)

8th Biannual Conference of the European Society for the
Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE)

Western Esotericism and Creativity:
Art, Performance and Innovation

University College Cork, 5-7 July 2021


This conference brings together scholars who seek to examine the intersections of Western Esotericism and artforms, creative performance and production. The theme is open to broad interpretation, as well as geographical scope and historical and cultural context from antiquity to the present day. The relationship between diverse genres of the arts and Western Esotericism are close and multivalent; many artists, historical and contemporary, are practising occultists or influenced by esoteric philosophies or practices. The theme encourages explorations of manifestations of spiritual creativity and the relationship between esoteric symbols, principles and religious frameworks, and the production of artwork. A multitude of examples of esoteric-inspired art can be identified, from literature and music to painting and photography. Examinations can also be made of the interconnection between innovation and esotericism, and attention paid to historical and philosophical developments in alchemy and other so-called ‘occult sciences’, or this aspect can be explored in terms of scholarly theoretical and methodological innovations in the field of Western Esotericism. Specific sub-themes could include:

  • Esoteric themes in art
  • Otherworldly encounters and creativity
  • Ritual, performance and esotericism
  • Esotericism and literature
  • Art and music as techniques in esoteric practice
  • Aesthetic dimensions of Western Esotericism
  • Occultism, artistic expression and popular culture

The broad conference theme encourages cross-disciplinary engagement, from scholars of religion, philosophers, historians, art historians, musicologists, literary scholars, psychologists and anthropologists as well as allowing the integration of perspectives and dialogue in relation to examinations of different dimensions of Western esotericism, whether in historical contexts or contemporary social and popular manifestations, in its experiential aspects or its philosophical strands.

The year 2021 is a commemorative year in Ireland as in 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, bringing an end to the War of Independence. Artists of the ‘Anglo-Irish Literary Revival’ or ‘Celtic Twilight’ artistic movement, such as William Butler Yeats, Ella Young, and George Russell, were involved in political movements and nationalist endeavours as well as folklore collection, and were practicing occultists, and the conference aims to explore such intersections of esotericism, art, politics and nationalism in Ireland and far beyond.

ESSWE8 is a Special Conference of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR).

Keynote lectures:

Dr Marco Pasi, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam, Department of Humanities, “The Occulture of Contemporary Art”

Dr Claire Nally, Associate Professor, Northumbria University, Department of Humanities, “Ireland’s Funerary Culture and Ancestral Memory: W. B. Yeats’s Early Poetry and Prose”

Dr Christopher Webster, Senior Lecturer, Aberystwyth University, “Stone, Symbol and Face: Photography and Ethnos in the Third Reich”

Call for Papers / Panels

While the aim is for ESSWE8 to be a large, cross-disciplinary and inclusive conference, paper and panel proposals will go through a careful selection process so as to ensure that the final programme will be of high academic quality as well as focused on the conference theme. We encourage scholars across disciplines to creatively consider the theme and to come up with innovative analytical perspectives and frameworks that examine specific historical and cultural contexts, source materials, unique cases and topics.

As always, the ESSWE wants to provide a platform for intensive exchange and collaborative networking between scholars from diverse perspectives, regions and on all levels of the academy. In this regard, postgraduate students as well as more experienced and established scholars are all encouraged to participate and submit proposals for papers or panels. In the many intersections that this conference theme shines a light on, we are confident that ESSWE8 will be a foundational event for developing collaborations in the field and establishing new research avenues for the future.

Individual paper presentations should have a length of 20 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for discussion.

The conference language is English.

Please send your paper or panel proposal to esswe8[at]

Submission Guidelines:

Individual paper proposals must include basic information about the author (title, institutional affiliation/independent scholar), a paper title and an abstract of no more than 300 words and 3-5 keywords about the proposed presentation.

Panel Proposals must include the following information:

  • Title of panel
  • Panel Description of approximately 300 words
  • Purpose, goals, expected outcomes and contribution to the conference theme (approximately 300-350 words)
  • Panel Convenor(s) (Organizer(s))’ names, email addresses and affiliations
  • Chosen Length: Panels can be 90 minutes or 120 minutes in length
  • Special requests/equipment needs

Please Note: panels are expected to generate discussion and active exchange of ideas rather than simply presenting a series of papers. The convenor(s) thus have the option to choose a different format (for example, roundtable discussion or a series of short position papers with audience/discussant response). The format choice should be included in the Panel description.

Important dates

Deadline for submission of paper and panel proposals: 1 November 2020

Notification of acceptance by: 15 January 2021

Beginning of Registration: 15 February 2021

Early bird conference fee until: 1 April 2021

Normal conference fee: 1 April to 25 June 2021

Please Note: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we reserve the option to postpone the conference to the following year should travel restrictions or university safety guidelines require it. If this is the case, delegates will be informed no later than 15 February 2021 (and in this eventuality, registration will not open).

Conference bursaries

The ESSWE provides a limited number of travel bursaries for participants from economically disadvantaged countries. For further information, see

ESSWE8 will feature a special symposium event for students of the ESSWE Student Network, facilitated by Mriganka Mukhopadhyay.

As part of its support of ESSWE8, the IAHR will provide two individual bursaries (of EUR 500 each) specifically for postgraduate students from weak currency countries in Europe. To apply, please email esswe8[at] with your name, thesis title, any links (website/social media) and notification of paper acceptance at ESSWE8.

Conference Organizer:

Dr Jenny Butler (Link:

Scientific Committee:

Jenny Butler, Henrik Bogdan, Egil Asprem, Christian Giudice, Crystal Addey


ESSWE8 will take place in University College Cork in Cork city, Ireland.


It will be possible to stay in the UCC campus accommodation, with rooms reserved for

delegates at a special price. A list of suggestions concerning hotels, hostels, and B&Bs will be

provided on the ESSWE8 website and the ESSWE Facebook page.


All questions and inquiries should be directed to esswe8[at]

For further information, please see the conference website:

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