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Dear ESSWE Members,
This is a friendly reminder that early bird registration for ESSWE9 at Malmö University closes at 23.59 CET on April 15th.
Organised by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Andreas Kilcher
The Simulations of the Unseen Conference will investigate the shifting meanings of “simulation” from an interdisciplinary perspective with contributions from the histories of art, religion, philosophy, science, and technology. The key theme the event explores is how unseen worlds are modelled and proliferated. The basic format consists of lectures by senior scholars, followed by question-and-answer sessions led by doctoral student respondents. Please visit the conference websites for lecture abstract and further information.
Registration is mandatory. Register before May 1, 2023.
After the registration deadline, all registered conference participants will receive information on the venues and the book of abstracts, including the full conference schedule, by e-mail.
If you have any question write us.
The conference is supported by Swiss National Science Foundation as part of the SNSF project "Scientification and Aestheticization of 'Esotericism' in the long 19th century".
Thursday, May 11
18:15 – 18:30 Welcome & Introduction by Andreas Kilcher
18:30 – 19:45 John Tresch (Warburg Institute): Mapping the Modern Cosmos, Seen and Unseen
Friday, May 12
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome & Introduction by Chloë Sugden and Jonas Stähelin
9:15 – 10:45 Maria Avxentevskaya (MPIWG Berlin)
Simulation for Proof and Persuasion in the Experimental Practices of the Early Royal Society
10:45 – 11:15 Coffee break
11:15 – 12:45 Jeremy Stolow (Concordia University)
Thelma Moss, Aura Photographer
12:45 – 14:15 Lunch break
14:15 – 15:45 Philip Ursprung (ETH Zurich)
Simulations of the “Inner Design”: Franz Junghuhn’s Volcanoes in the mid 19th century
15:45 – 16:15 Coffee break
16:15 – 17:45 Judith Siegmund (Zurich University of the Arts)
Simulation as a General Form of Knowledge and its Relationship to Artistic Action Today
Saturday, May 13
9:00 – 10:30 Simone Natale (University of Turin)
Simulating Sociality in Machines
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee break
11:11 – 12:30 Isabel Millar (Newcastle University)
Post-Conceptual Art: A Pataphysical Object
12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break
13:30 – 15:00 Katrin Solhdju (University of Mons)
Simulation of Disease: Pathology, Delinquency, or an Act of Contestation?
15:00 – 15:15 Coffee break
15:15 – 16:45 Monika Dommann (University of Zurich)
Simulation in the TV Age. “Die Welt am Draht” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1973)
16:45 Closing remarks by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Andreas Kilcher
The meaning of both the term and the concept of “simulation” is bound up in an oscillating tension between depiction and deception. Contemporary scientific practice relies on models and simulations to stage realities beyond the limits of our ordinary senses. Scientific simulations enable the prediction of future events and the perception of their trajectories, such as viral spreads, economic upheavals and changes in climate. Yet simulations, spanning from simple graphic illustrations to highly complex computer-generated environments, should also be met with suspicion. Jean Baudrillard famously cautioned against the destabilizing effects that simulations can have on reality. In a world oversaturated by simulacra and mass spectacle, separating fact from fiction, the signs of the real from the real, is a precarious pursuit. Simulation, he writes, entails the generation of hyperreality: the production by models of a real without origin.
This conference is not, however, premised on Baudrillard’s diagnosis. Nor do we wish to praise simulations as instances of linear technical progress, or approach them as products of the digital era alone. Rather, we believe that the simulation, both theoretically and historically, is best understood as an ambivalent tool for revelation, yet also riddle and ruse. We seek to engage with, rather than eliminate or unmask this duality, expanding discussions to include the long nineteenth century, where simulation as a term took on manifold often conflicting meanings.
Two pivotal nineteenth-century scientific developments contributed to destabilizing the real. First, aided by various technical apparatuses, areas such as chemistry and physics envisioned an invisible world of ethereal undulations, electrical discharges, magnetic forces and subatomic particles. Second, sense physiology showed that human sense perception had little to do with the objective world, but was rather determined by internal physiological processes. These two factors contributed to a growing distrust in the accuracy of human vision, as mechanical recording and measurement devices that registered ever subtler spheres of reality were privileged. The reality to which these devices allowed access was increasingly mediated. This process raises a series of interesting epistemological questions regarding the problem of simulation: How are hypotheses derived from a plurality of technically produced images, representing sections of the world invisible to the human eye? Crucially, how are facts distinguished from artifacts in the absence of a visible referent? How does one translate measurable facts, which are at the same time technical artifacts, into scientific fictions or robust theories?
The epistemic uncertainties arising from this multiplication of the invisible become strikingly apparent when one considers the emergence of occultism that ran parallel to this process. While many contemporaries viewed science’s venture into the unseen with despair, occultists reveled in the new possibilities that increasingly simulated worlds invited. Accessing the invisible scientifically held the promise that invisible objects which had hitherto belonged to a speculative, transcendental beyond could now be naturalized and made visible. They could be simulated as “occult knowledge” with the newly acquired methods and techniques of science.
Fin de siècle discourses on hypnosis reveal another instance in which the epistemological implications of simulations were investigated. Known as the “simulation problem,” psychologists and physicians working with hypnosis struggled to determine whether the hypnotic state could be separated from a simulated one. Psychologists questioned whether a subject could convincingly feign hypnosis, deceiving even the most experienced hypnotists. Although generally acknowledged in treatises on hypnotism of the period, the emergence and consequences of this problem were mostly downplayed, as the matter exposed the limits of the male “medical gaze,” threatening psychology’s claim to scientific objectivity.
Investigations into the simulation of hidden phenomena also interweave with art history. Art objects have historically interacted with occult paradigms to generate productive ambivalences and enchantments. Occultism has cultivated an experimental epistemic uncertainty in art – a visual vocabulary of claimed occult knowledge has continued to circulate through certain image-objects. Modern artists and esotericists have experimented with various aesthetic approaches, attempting to positivize the occult cosmologies otherwise locked in one’s mind. Occult paradigms participated in the development of art movements of the fin de siècle, for example, Belgian symbolist painting. Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), Jean Delville (1867-1953), and Félicen Rops (1833-1898) sought to aestheticize hidden realms of experience through mystical imagery replete with arcane iconography. They rejected realism in painting, portraying a syncretic, intuitive inner life. Their works transcend the mundane to depict higher spiritual realities and incite visionary states in viewers. Aligning with the epistemological dilemmas that scientists face, artist-esotericists seek to simulate and thus enact the experience of occult illumination.
As this sweeping history reveals, the topic of simulation traverses historical subdisciplines, foregoing clear-cut boundaries between science and non-science. Scientists, artists, and occultists alike possess relevant knowledge of the ambiguity, treachery and duplicity involved in simulation; of the devices and deceptions involved in sensitive visual description. Simulations lie between the visible and the invisible, representation and the irrepresentable, idea and image, form and matter. They can be sites of illuminating microcosmic and macrocosmic visualisation, yet also beguilement, error and betrayal, which we look forward to exploring through the Simulations of the Unseen conference.
The application for travel bursaries for this year's ESSWE conference in Malmö is now open. The first deadline is March 31. If funds are still available after applications for the first deadline have been assessed, a second call will be announced for April.
Please find the application form and information on how to apply on the Bursaries page.
Please read the full call for papers here: https://theosophicalhistoryconference.eu/?page_id=3344
Modern Theosophy is renowned for its reception of ancient Asian traditions, but the Theosophical movement and related esoteric currents have also enthusiastically reinvented ancient Egyptian, Ptolemaic, and Hellenistic traditions. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Theosophical interest in the ancient world was part of a larger movement. Egypt was eagerly embraced as a powerful topic in art, fashion, and literature, and Egyptology emerged as an academic discipline. Theosophy and related esoteric traditions did not stand on the outskirts of these expressions; but formulated their perspectives in a dialectical relationship with broader trends and vice-versa. Occasionally, the receptions, conceptions, relationships, and entanglements were so pronounced that it was difficult to clearly distinguish between Egyptology, Egyptomania, and Egyptosophy. During the same period of time, there was a renewed and continued interest in the ancient world, ancient philosophies, ancient mythology, and ancient religious traditions, which constituted an integral aspect of both Theosophy and the ‘occult revival’ at large.
– Professor Henrik Bogdan
The Lure and Romance of Ancient Egypt: John Yarker, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Freemasonry
– Professor Eleanor Dobson
Egyptians on Mars: Science, Science Fiction and the Theosophical Imagination at the Fin de Siècle (online key-note lecture)
– Conference Chair: Prof. Tim Rudbøg (Associate professor, Science of Religion, director of the Copenhagen Centre for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism, University of Copenhagen);
– Prof. James Santucci (Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at California State University, Fullerton);
– Paulina Gruffman (PhD candidate in History of Religions, Lund University, Sweden);
– Erica Georgiades (MRes Religious Experience Cand, University of Wales Trinity Saint David; PgD Merit Ancient Religions UWTSD; BA, Hons, Philosophy and Psychological Studies OU).
This conference is organised by Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations and Spiritualities in collaboration with Dr. Giuliano D’Amico, Associate Professor at the University of Oslo and director of the research network Esotericism and Aesthetics in the Nordic Countries, and Dr. Marco Pasi, Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents.
The osmosis between esoteric/occult and artistic discourse, which scholars have termed “occulture”, has mainly been studied from a national perspective and drawing upon case studies from the last 60 years. Such lack of comparative knowledge and studies is somewhat surprising if one takes into account the impact of esoteric and occult materials from a wider “South” (including not only Southern Europe, but also Northern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin) that has made its way in Northern Europe since at least the end of the 19th century, focusing, but not limited to, Sufism, Egyptosophy and Freemasonry, or, conversely, about the continuous forms of inspiration that Nordic alternative spirituality has had on artistic production in Southern Europe (e.g. with the proliferation of Nordic paganism in occultural discourse). The proposed conference aims at filling this scholarly gap, open up avenues of research and discussing new ways of approaching and conceptualizing occultural phenomena with a North-South perspective as a starting point. We understand “North” and “South” as including, respectively, the Nordic, Baltic, German and English-speaking countries in Europe, and Southern European, Mediterranean, and African countries/areas.
This advanced summer programme provides a venue for enthusiasts of ‘othered knowledge’ to take a deep dive into the study of esotericism and the occult. Participants will gather at the University of Amsterdam and join experts at the Centre for the History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents, the world’s leading institution for academic research and teaching in esotericism, to broaden their knowledge in a wide variety of topics.
Students will explore important movements in esotericism in the past, as well as how various traditions reverberate in the present. Making use of flexible yet rigorous scholarly frameworks, participants will encounter various traditions (from occultism and alchemy to gnosticism and psychedelic culture), diving into primary texts as well as film, music, and other forms of cultural expression.
Programme website: Arcane Worlds: New Frontiers in the Study of Esotericism | Housing and scholarships available | Starts in: July | Duration: 3 weeks | Early admission deadline: 1 February 2023 | Regular admission deadline: 15 March 2023 | Questions? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The ESSWE Board welcomes applications for organizing the Tenth Biennial International ESSWE Conference, to be held in 2025. The application should include a description of the host institution, a preliminary budget, a suggested theme for the conference, and CV of the applicant/s. The application should be sent to the ESSWE Secretary Henrik Bogdan (email@example.com) no later than June 1, 2023.
Secretary of the ESSWE
Organisers: Centre for Contemporary Buddhist Studies and the Copenhagen Centre for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism
Venue: Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen
Deadline for abstracts: 1st of February, maximum 250 words
This 2-day conference will explore the ways that Buddhist modernism and the spiritual movements of the fin de siècle (as exemplified by the Theosophical Society), both reacting to and enacting the dynamics of colonialism, continue to transform spiritual and ecological movements within and beyond the 21st century.
We invite papers that explore questions such as:
If you are interested in contributing to this conference, please send your abstract (max. 250 words) and author details to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1st of February 2022.
Call for paper proposals for a SNASWE panel at two upcoming conferences 2023:
ESSWE (Malmö 2023) and EASR (Vilnius, 2023)
If you would like to be a part of a SNASWE panel (Scandinavian Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism) at one or both of the following two conferences next year, please send the following information to the head of the SNASWE network, Tim Rudbøg email@example.com no later than by the end of Saturday 12 November 2022.
SNASWE represents Nordic scholarship on esotericism and/or deals with esotericism in Nordic contexts. Rudbøg will see if there is potential to create one or more panels for each of the two conferences along these lines.
You will receive a message by the end of Sunday 13 November about your proposal: if it can become a part of a panel and what the possible panel theme will be. If your proposal is accepted for a SNASWE panel, it is expected that you will reply quickly to any emails as the deadline for submitting panels to both conferences is 15 November.
Dear student members of ESSWE,
I hope message finds you well. It is time to elect a new student representative to the board of ESSWE. The elected representative is the admin of the Student Network of the ESSWE (SNoESSWE). S/he is also an ex-officio member of the ESSWE board and the ESSWE ethics committee. If you want to nominate yourself, please write a short statement describing why you would be a good student representative (approx. 500 words). Please include your name, affiliation, and research interests in the statement (an additional 150 max.). The statement will be sent to all student members of the ESSWE, who may then vote for the new student representative.
Please send your statement to me via M.Mukhopadhyay@uva.nl. The deadline for sending your nomination is 18 November 2022.
Under the current rule, the student representative is usually a PhD candidate and student member of ESSWE, elected only by the student members.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me. I will get back to you as soon as possible.
All the best,
Outgoing student representative
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