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Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic at Southwest Popular/American Culture Association, Feb 21-24, Albuquerque, New Mexico (SWPACA 2024)

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Organization: Southwest Popular/American Culture Association
Event: SWPACA 2024
Categories: Postcolonial, Digital Humanities, Graduate Conference, American, Hispanic & Latino, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, French, British, Lingustics, 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, Science, Miscellaneous
Event Date: 2024-02-21 to 2024-02-24 Abstract Due: 2023-10-31

Call for Papers


Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)

45th Annual Conference, February 21-24, 2024

Marriott Albuquerque

Albuquerque, New Mexico


Submissions open on September 1, 2023

Proposal submission deadline: October 31, 2023

Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 45th annual SWPACA conference. One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels.  For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit http://southwestpca.org/conference/call-for-papers/

Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic invites proposals relating to magical worldviews, practices, and representations, as well as consciousness transformation, hidden meanings, the power of transmutation, and related phenomena. Characteristic beliefs and practices include: arcane symbolism, imagery, and aesthetics; unseen forces and spiritual intermediaries; 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, manifest 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 2024 may include the following, as well as their various possible intersections and combinations, but all proposals suitable to the Area will be considered: esotericism, occultism, magic, liminality, fluidity, and normative boundaries (cultural, social, intellectual, ethical, moral, spiritual, racial, ethnic, legal etc.) as well as their challenge and transgression -- but also the mainstreaming of EOM; identity, personality, and personification;  metamorphosis and shapeshifting; the sacred and the numinous; EOM and ecology; EOM, nationalism, (geo)politics, espionage, disinformation, and cyberspace; cultural conceptions/constructions of (in)sanity, madness, mania, compulsion, and addiction;  pathology, and pathologization; (un)death, and unlife; antinomianism, immoralism, and conceptions of evil; EOM and crime (as motive, as projection, but also the criminalization/vilification of EOM); the monstrous; artificial life, artificial sentience, and artificial sapience; the supernatural; conceptions of the miraculous and the impossible; thaumaturgy and wonder-working; illusion, deepfake, simulation, and forgery; magical charlatanry and occult fraud; EOM and concepts of "reality", virtual and otherwise; "technomagic", "magical machines", technology, innovation, and inspiration; EOM and memes; 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 and Traditionalism; EOM, nostalgia, retrofuturism, alternate history, and counterfactual scenarios; concepts/models of parallel/alternate dimension, timelines, multiverses/metaverses; 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).  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 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 Conjuring series, The 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, or traumatic initiation, such as the Saw series; stylized depictions of magicians, wizards, and witches (Dr. Strange, Shazam, Maleficent, Oz, Warlock, Thulsa Doom of Conan, Jafar of Aladdin) ; esoteric/occult films such those by Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky; pseudo- and crypto-history in fiction (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 Mayfair Witches, Westworld, Stranger Things, Brand New Cherry Flavor, Yellowjackets, SandmanWandavision, Game of Thrones/House of the DragonThe Witcher, The Magicians, A Discovery of Witches, Midnight Mass, The Devil In Ohio, The Order, Dark, Shadowhunters, The Man in the High Castle, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Twin Peaks, Penny Dreadful, DaVinci’s Demons, American Horror Story, American Gods, Lucifer, True Detective (season one), Strange Angel (fictionalized biography of occultist/magician Jack Parsons.) Significant protagonists and anti-heroes; 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, The Council, Goetia, Hell Is Others, Cyberpunk 2077, Saturnalia, Solium Infernum, A Plague Tale, Cult of the Lamb, Hunt: Showdown, Medium, Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator, Dead SynchronicityThe Witcher, Silent Hill, Darkest Dungeon, Cultist Simulator, The Shadow Government Simulator, Secret Government, Secret World, Xenogears, Devil May Cry, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Arcana, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick ObscuraShadow 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 http://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 http://southwestpca.org/conference/faqs-and-tips/

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.  

For information on how to submit a proposal for a roundtable or a multi-paper panel, please view the above FAQs and Tips page.  

The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2023.  

SWPACA offers monetary awards for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. Submissions of accepted, full papers are due January 1, 2024.  SWPACA also offers travel fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students. For more information, visit http://southwestpca.org/conference/graduate-student-awards/

Registration and travel information for the conference will be available at http://southwestpca.org/conference/conference-registration-information/

For 2024, we are excited to continue again at the Marriott Albuquerque (2101 Louisiana Blvd NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110), which boasts free parking and close proximity to dining, shopping, and other delights.

In addition, please check out the organization’s peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, at http://journaldialogue.org/

If you have any questions about the Esotericism, Occultism, and Magic area, please contact its Area Chair, George J. Sieg, Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, georgejsieg@gmail.com. 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.

This will be a fully in-person conference. If you’re looking for an online option to present your work, keep an eye out for details about the 2024 SWPACA Summer Salon, a completely virtual conference to take place in June 2024. However, do keep in mind that the Summer Salon is a smaller conference with limited presentation slots and no student funding assistance.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!


George Sieg