EVENT Jun 20
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DEADLINE EXTENDED: Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic at Southwest Popular/American Culture Association ONLINE Virtual Summer Salon, June 20-22 (SWPACA Virtual Summer Salon 2024)

Organization: Southwest Popular/American Culture Association
Event: SWPACA Virtual Summer Salon 2024
Categories: Postcolonial, American, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, French, British, German, Genre & Form, Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, Literary Theory, Women's Studies, World Literatures, African-American, Colonial, Revolution & Early National, Transcendentalists, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, Adventure & Travel Writing, Children's Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels, Drama, Narratology, Poetry, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy, African & African Diasporas, Asian & Asian Diasporas, Australian Literature, Canadian Literature, Caribbean & Caribbean Diasporas, Indian Subcontinent, Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle East, Native American, Scandinavian, Pacific Literature, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2024-06-20 to 2024-06-22 Abstract Due: 2024-04-22


Call for Papers


Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)

SWPACA Summer Salon

June 20-22, 2024

Virtual Conference


Proposal submission deadline: EXTENDED to April 22, 2024

Proposals for papers are now being accepted for the SWPACA Summer Salon. SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas in a variety of categories encompassing the following: Film, Television, Music, & Visual Media; Historic & Contemporary Cultures; Identities & Cultures; Language & Literature; Science Fiction & Fantasy; and Pedagogy & Popular Culture. For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit https://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/

Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic invites proposals relating to magical worldviews, practices, and representations, as well as consciousness transformation, the preternatural, hidden meanings, the power of transmutation, and related phenomena. Characteristic methods, beliefs, perspectives, and practices include: arcane symbolism, imagery, and aesthetics; unseen forces, spiritual intermediaries, and invisible agencies; synchronous patterns, non-ordinary causation, and anomalous processes. Examples of ideas and systems include Hermeticism, Gnosticism, Sufism, Tantra, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, Satanism, witchcraft, sorcery, demonology, astrology, alchemy, yoga, shamanism, parapsychology, and psychic and paranormal phenomena, along with beliefs and practices relating to altered states of consciousness, overlapping with the study of mysticism as well as New Age spirituality, channeling, positive thinking, manifestation, the power of intention, guardian angels, and Ascended Masters. Esoteric, occult, and magical concepts, beliefs, and practices appear in every culture and civilization; contemporary media and popular culture have embraced them enthusiastically, yet at times have reacted against them. The impact of esotericism, occultism, and magic on genre formation/content and popular cultural perceptions has been profound.

Special themes for the 2024 Summer Salon may include the following, as well as their various possible intersections and combinations, but all proposals suitable to the Area will be considered: EOM and politics/politicization of EOM; syncretism; liminality, fluidity, and normative boundaries as well as their challenge and transgression; the normalization and mainstreaming of EOM; artificial life, artificial sentience, and artificial sapience; identity, personality, personification; masks; metamorphosis and shapeshifting; illusion, deepfake, simulation, and forgery; magical charlatanry and occult fraud; EOM and concepts of "reality"; "technomagic" and "magical machines”; memes, nationalism, (geo)politics, multipolarity, espionage, disinformation, and cyberspace; conceptions of the miraculous and the impossible; thaumaturgy and wonder-working; the monstrous; the supernatural; (un)death, unlife, and necromancy; antinomianism, immoralism, and conceptions of evil; EOM and crime (as motive, as projection, but also the criminalization/vilification of EOM); inversion, subversion, and reversal; creativity, interactive fiction, and metafiction; invented worlds, secondary worlds, myth, magical realism, the fantastic, the weird, and the sublime; theurgy and theosis; mystery cults and theophany; entheogens and nootropics; indigenous worldviews and magical folklore; Tradition, Traditionalism, and Neo-Traditionalism; EOM and radicalism, extremism, and terrorism; labyrinths and mazes; nostalgia, retrofuturism, alternate history, and counterfactual scenarios; concepts/models of parallel/alternate/mirror dimensions, timelines, universes, multiverses/metaverses/omniverses; the alien and the unknown

Sample Ideas for topics categorized by media:

Literature: Fiction by practitioners, such as Philip K. Dick, William S. Burroughs, C. S. Friedman. Books by practitioners (for example, Evola, Gurdjieff, Crowley, Anton LaVey, Gerald Gardner, Peter Carroll, Edgar Cayce). Influences and themes in magical realism, speculative fiction, gothic fiction, weird fiction, historical fiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance and adventure. Fiction influential on practitioners, such as Zanoni, Goethe’s Faust, The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Historical representations of magicians, witches, and wizards, including stylized and mythic figures (Merlin, Morgan La Fey, Circe, Medea, Kostchie the Deathless, etc.), in genre fiction (contemporary Arthurian adaptations) or modernizations (Neil Gaiman, Tim Powers, Jim Butcher, Susanna Clarke), indigenous futurism and fantasy (Octavia Butler, Rebecca Roanhorse, N. K. Jemisin).  New Age and/or popular manifestation guides, such as The Secret. Conspiracist and/or extra-terrestrial cosmologies related to esoteric concepts (David Icke, the Seth transmissions to Jane Roberts, the Michael channelings, etc.).

Visual Art: Examples: Hilma af Klint, Wassily Kandinsky, Austin Spare, Rosaleen Norton, Michael Bertiaux.

Film: Content as in The Conjuring series, Spell, The Pope’s Exorcist, Suspiria, Babylon 5: The Road Home, Malum, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham, It Lives Inside, Nefarious, Hellraiser, The Color Out of SpaceThe WitchHereditaryMidsommarApostle, The Endless, A Dark Song, Kill List, Drag Me To Hell, The Skeleton KeyThe Serpent and the RainbowThe Ninth GateThe Wicker Man; Gnostic allegories such as The MatrixDark CityThe Truman Show; explorations of consciousness such as eXistenZAltered States2001 Space Odyssey, Dune; representations of occult aesthetic, such as Eyes Wide Shut, occult conspiracy, such as Starry Eyes, traumatic initiation, such as the Saw series, immersive fiction as initiation, such as The Game; stylized depictions of magicians, wizards, and witches (Dr. Strange, Shazam, Maleficent, Oz, Warlock, Balthazar Blake of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Thulsa Doom of Conan, Jafar of Aladdin) ; esoteric/occult films such those by Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky; pseudo- and crypto-history in fiction (Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, National Treasure); New Age documentaries, such as The Secret; conspiracist receptions of esoteric and occult history, such as Zeitgeist.

Television: Theme and/or content examples Severance, Sanctuary: A Witch’s Tale, Mayfair Witches, A Discovery of Witches, True Detective (season one and season four), House of Usher, Taboo, The Changeling, Archive 81, Lodge 49, Requiem, Undone, Fortitude, YellowjacketsWandavision, Brand New Cherry Flavor, The Devil’s Hour, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Exorcist, Game of Thrones/House of the DragonThe Witcher, The Magicians, Midnight Mass, The Devil In Ohio, The Order, Dark, Shadowhunters, NOS4A2, Outcast, Zone Blanche/Black Spot, Stranger Things, Westworld, The Man in the High Castle, His Dark Materials, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Twin Peaks, Penny Dreadful, DaVinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, Carnivale, Babylon 5; Significant characters, representations, and personifications American Gods, Lucifer, Constantine, Sandman, PreacherStrange Angel (fictionalized biography of occultist/magician Jack Parsons); fourth-wall-breaking or uncanny figures, presented with esoteric, occult, or quasi-ritualistic aesthetics (Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Frank Underwood of House of Cards). 

Comics / Graphic Novels: Contain esoteric, occult, and magical motifs and tropes. Some are actively esoteric; Grant Morrison claims The Invisibles and Promethea as personal magical workings; the graphic novels of Neil Gaiman embrace esoteric, occult, magical themes and characters.

Music: Specific artists (e.g. Genesis P-Orridge, David Bowie, Coil, Marilyn Manson, Ghost, Watain, Dissection, Behemoth, Wardruna, Tori Amos, Loreena McKennitt, Gustav Holst), genres (dark ambient, dungeon synth, black metal, viking/Nordic ambient, apocalyptic folk, military industrial, witch house).

Video Games: Theme and content, e.g., Astrologaster, Apollyon: River of Life, The Council, Goetia, Solium Infernum, Hell Is Others, The Chant, American Arcadia, Cyberpunk 2077, Saturnalia, A Plague Tale, Cult of the Lamb, Medium, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator, Dead SynchronicityThe Witcher, Silent Hill,  Cultist Simulator, The Shadow Government Simulator, This Book Is A Dungeon, Secret Government, Secret World, Xenogears, Devil May Cry, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick ObscuraArcana, Prognostic, Signalis, Faith, Amazing Cultivation Simulator, The Mortuary Assistant, Shadow Hearts, Arx Fatalis, Eternal Darkness; pseudo-history Assassin’s Creed, Tomb Raider, Broken Sword; historical worldviews, Civilization VI (secret societies), Crusader Kings (cults, witchcraft, demonolatry), The Elder Scrolls, Destiny 2, Genshin Impact (Gnosticism & Hermeticism), Curious Expedition (historical occultists as playable characters, occult revival + pulp aesthetic); Deus Ex, SOMA, State of Mind (transhumanism); methodology (Nevermind, when utilizing biofeedback)

Tabletop Roleplaying Games: The Esoterrorists and Yellow King (Pelgrane Press), Esoterica (Fire Ruby Designs), Kult: Divinity Lost (rebooted by Modiphius Games), Liminal (Modiphius), Sigil & Shadow (Osprey Games), Esoteric Enterprises (Dying Stylishly Games), White Wolf’s Mage (classic World of Darkness) and Demon: The Descent (Chronicles of Darkness), World of Darkness generally, Atlas Games Unknown Armies, Monte Cook’s Invisible Sun, Kevin Crawford's Silent Legions. RPGs have influenced the conception of magic in popular culture across media, and present extensive representation of magical figures.  Esoteric and gnostic themes intersect with transhumanism in examples such as Eclipse Phase.

Other possible topics:

Influence of esoteric/occult/magical/New Age beliefs, practices, symbols on popular culture and aesthetics (e.g., memes, clothing, tattoos, jewelry).

Influence of popular culture on esoteric/occult/magical beliefs, practices, and practitioners (e.g., Lovecraft mythos as actual magical practice, fictional gods of chaos in Chaos Magic, and real vampire communities using concepts from Vampire: The Masquerade).

Popular beliefs about esotericism/occultism/magic: fads, trends, moral panics, witch-hunts, witch-crazes, conspiracy theories (e.g., anti-occult-conspiracism in QAnon; Illuminati paranoia, bloodline of the Holy Grail beliefs, Satanic Ritual Abuse scandals).

Reactions and polemics against esoteric/occult/magical beliefs and practices

All proposals must be submitted through the conference’s database at https://register.southwestpca.org/southwestpca

For details on using the submission database and on the application process in general, please see the Proposal Submission FAQs and Tips page at https://southwestpca.org/conference/faqs-and-tips/ Registration information for the conference will be available at https://southwestpca.org/conference/conference-registration-information/

Individual proposals for 15-minute papers must include an abstract of approximately 200-500 words. Including a brief bio in the body of the proposal form is encouraged, but not required.  

If you have any questions about the Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic area, please contact its Area Chair, Dr. George J. Sieg, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, georgejsieg@gmail.com / (505) 440-2105. If you have general questions about the conference, please contact us at support@southwestpca.org, and a member of the executive team will get back to you.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)

SWPACA Summer Salon




George Sieg