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The 9th Biennial Conference of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism

Western Esotericism and Practice

Malmö University, Sweden, June 26–28, 2023

Call for Papers

Conference website:,cultureandidentity/esswe9

ESSWE9 calls for a comprehensive exploration of the many dimensions of practice in Western esotericism. In recovering and documenting religious and philosophical currents, persons, and groups overlooked in “mainstream” histories, scholars of Western esotericism have developed considerable knowledge and analytical tools for understanding what esoteric practitioners have believed or thought about the world and themselves — while less is known about what esotericists did or do. Several challenges face the study of esoteric practices, related to sources (esoteric practices are often conveyed via oral tradition or practical demonstration, posing a challenge for the reconstruction of historical practices); research access and ethics (emic strategies of secrecy or concealment mean that scholars seeking to explore esoteric practices may face challenges or ethical questions in determining what to disclose); and interpersonal relations (rapport with close-knit groups may be required to access to certain practices).

The conference theme encourages cross-disciplinary engagement from scholars of, e.g., religion, history, anthropology, art history, archaeology, folklore, sociology, ethnology, gender and sexuality studies, literature studies, and classical studies. By promoting interdisciplinary exploration of the important research frontier of esoteric practice, we hope to provide participants with an ideal opportunity to learn and advance our understanding of how esotericism has been embodied, enacted, and materialised. The conference theme is open to broad interpretation, and encompasses studies of specific forms of esoteric practice from antiquity until today and in a variety of geographical and cultural contexts, as well as explorations of conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues relevant to the study of esoteric practices.

Specific topics to be addressed may include: initiation rituals and/or rites of passage; magic; transgression and/or taboo-breaking; bodily adornment and/or augmentation; textual practices including esoteric printing culture, book trading, and writing or reading as esoteric practices; preparation and consumption of food and beverages as part of esoteric practice; divination; material culture such as production, use, and/or commodification of, e.g., ritual tools and clothing, incense, manuscripts, amulets, curse tablets, crystals, and talismans; imagination as practice and/or and techniques for generating exceptional or fantastical experiences or states of consciousness.

Conceptual areas to be addressed may also include: typologies of esoteric practice; sources and methods for studying historical esoteric practices; ethical implications of studying esoteric practices historically and today in relation to secrecy, concealment, or consent from research subjects; potentials and pitfalls of oral tradition and/or oral history methods as sources for esoteric practices; space and/or spatiality; literary fiction, the visual arts, and/or popular (oc)culture as sources of inspiration or conduits for transmission of esoteric practices; esoteric pedagogies; approaches to “lived” or “everyday” esotericism; performativity of ritual actions, speech, and images; and sexuality and embodiment.

While ESSWE9 aims to provide a lively and inclusive forum for interdisciplinary engagement, all proposals will be subjected to a rigorous selection process to ensure academic quality and relevance to the conference theme.

As always, ESSWE aims to provide a platform for collaboration and dialogue between scholars from different perspectives, regions, and at all levels of the academy. Postgraduate students as well as more experienced and established scholars are all encouraged to participate and submit proposals for sessions or papers.


Hosted at the Department of Society, Culture, and Identity, ESSWE9 will take place at campus Niagara of Malmö University in the city of Malmö, Sweden.


The ESSWE provides a number of travel bursaries for scholars and students from economically disadvantaged countries. For more information, click here.

Organisational team

Manon Hedenborg White, Erik Alvstad, Erica Li Lundqvist, Bodil Liljefors-Persson, Paulina Gruffman

Scientific committee

Erik Alvstad, Egil Asprem, Henrik Bogdan, Manon Hedenborg White, Tim Rudbøg


All questions should be addressed to

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