The academic study of Western esotericism has blossomed in recent years, but there is still a major gap in scholarship on esotericism: very little research exists on contemporary phenomena. While some present-day phenomena related to esotericism, such as ‘New Age spiritualities’ and (neo)paganism, have been the focus of scholars in other fields, such developments have been largely neglected in the field of Western esotericism.

While most scholarship in the field has had a focus on early modern phenomena and has been predominantly historiographical in its approach, serious attempts to develop sociological approaches to the study of the esoteric/occult have been made in recent years.

The fundamental challenge is that the study of contemporary esotericism requires new definitions and methodologies, apart from those developed for the study of Renaissance and early modern esotericism. Studying contemporary phenomena poses intriguing possibilities, such as the opportunity to study esotericism in lived contexts, which unavoidably also introduce new problems.

Additional information

The conference is arranged in conjunction with the 2012 EASR conference, also arranged in Stockholm, Sweden (at Södertörn University, August 23-26). Panels on esotericism, both historical and contemporary, are planned for the EASR as well, thus providing the opportunity to engage in extended discussion on these subjects, and of course lessening travel expenses.

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