New Approaches to the Study of Esotericism


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This volume offers new approaches to some of the biggest persistent challenges in the study of esotericism and beyond. Commonly understood as a particularly "Western" undertaking consisting of religious, philosophical, and ritual traditions that go back to Mediterranean antiquity, this book argues for a global approach that significantly expands the scope of esotericism and highlights its relevance for broader theoretical and methodological debates in the humanities and social sciences.

The contributors offer critical interventions on aspects related to colonialism, race, gender and sexuality, economy, and marginality. Equipped with a substantial introduction and conclusion, the book offers textbook-style discussions of the state of research and makes concrete proposals for how esotericism can be rethought through broader engagement with neighboring fields.
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Egil Asprem is Associate Professor in History of Religions at Stockholm University. He is the editor-in-chief of Aries and has published widely on esotericism and its study, including The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900-1939 (Brill, 2014).
Julian Strube is a Research Fellow at the University of Münster, Germany. He has published a range of monographs, edited volumes, and articles on the relationship between religion, esotericism, and politics since the nineteenth century from a global historical perspective.
"The book argues for a global approach to the study of esotericism and emphasizes its relevance for broader theoretical and methodological debates in the humanities and social sciences to encourage an open and serious exchange with other perspectives. This is indeed an essential contribution to the study of esotericism, which will undoubtedly elicit fruitful further discussion within and beyond the field." - Nicole Maria Bauer, University of Innsbruck, in: Religious Studies Review 47.1 (2021)
List of Schematics
Notes on Contributors
Esotericism’s Expanding Horizon: Why This Book Came to Be Egil Asprem and Julian Strube
Receptions of Revelations: A Future for the Study of Esotericism and Antiquity Dylan Burns
Towards the Study of Esotericism without the “Western”: Esotericism from the Perspective of a Global Religious History Julian Strube
“That I Did Love the Moor to Live with Him”: Islam in/and the Study of “Western Esotericism” Liana Saif
The Occult among the Aborigines of South America? Some Remarks on Race, Coloniality, and the West in the Study of Esotericism Mariano Villalba
“Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels”: Western Esotericism, Yoga, and the Discourse of Authenticity Keith Cantú
Rejected Knowledge Reconsidered: Some Methodological Notes on Esotericism and Marginality Egil Asprem
Race and (the Study of) Esotericism Justine Bakker
“What Can the Whole World Be Hiding?” Exploring Africana Esotericisms in the American Soul-Blues Continuum Hugh R. Page, Jr. and Stephen C. Finley
Double Toil and Gender Trouble? Performativity and Femininity in the Cauldron of Esotericism Research Manon Hedenborg White
What do Jade Eggs Tell Us about the Category “Esotericism”? Spirituality, Neoliberalism, Secrecy, and Commodities Susannah Crockford
Interpretation Reconsidered: The Definitional Progression in the Study of Esotericism as a Case in Point for the Varifocal Theory of Interpretation Dimitry Okropiridze
Afterword: Outlines of a New Roadmap Egil Asprem and Julian Strube
All interested in the study of esotericism, ranging from established experts and teachers looking for textbook introductions to students aiming to familiarize themselves with current discussions within the field.
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