Day four: Aren’t you tired? Four days is a lot to handle and I am personally exhausted. But together I am convinced we can make it through to the finish line. I hear it’s totally worth it.
The final day of the ESSWE conference kicked off with a roundtable discussion of the ESSWE sub-groups. Really, this was the must-see session OF THE ENTIRE CONFERENCE. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for 9:30 am on Saturday. I know many of you set your alarm clocks with the full intention of being present, but accidentally hit the “off” button instead of “snooze.” I understand. Next time, maybe?
I really wanted to be part of the panel because (a) I worked really hard on our website and (b) the most dangerous place to stand is between me and attention. Luckily, the coordinator for NSEA, Dylan Burns, was happy to oblige. Thank you, Dylan, for indulging my narcissism. I owe you one.
Actually, the panel was much bigger than I expected, with representatives from the Scandinavian Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism, the Israeli Network for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism, the Center for the Study of Western Esotericism of the Union of South American Nations, ContERN, and us. (You can learn more about all the ESSWE sub-groups here.)
We all spoke briefly about our groups and what they do. I must admit that team NSEA did a most excellent job in this regard. There were even a couple of audience questions for us afterward! I hope we made it clear that if you are a scholar of esotericism in antiquity, then NSEA is the group you want to get in on. If you want more information on what we do, or how to get hooked up with us, by all means, give me a shout!
The afternoon keynote was given by Mark Sedgwick. I almost didn’t attend because it was on Islam—an area I just don’t have much interest in. However, having forked over some big bucks for the conference, I wanted to get my money’s worth and went.
It was one of the better lectures I saw all week.
Sedgwick talked significantly about the esoteric influences on Islam, especially Neoplatonic sources. Obviously, this was pertinent to my interests, and I was riveted the entire talk. Just goes to show you never know what’s going to happen.
And then the final presenters took to the stage…
After the last round of papers, I emerged from the lecture hall to a buzzing reception area: the building was packed with folks eager to see the roundtable discussion on esotericism and music with Carl Abrahamsson and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Genesis, of course, is a legend as the founder of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth and Psychic TV (and numerous other projects). Abrahamsson also has many things on the go, notably being the publisher of the journal The Fenris Wolf.
Genesis talked about the early days of TOPI, frequenting occult bookstores, and the magic that comes from simply doing stuff. Pretty much everyone in attendance enjoyed his talk, which in many ways was a precursor to the evening’s entertainment, a performance by Genesis and White Stains at the Nefertiti Jazz Club.
And then it was time to say goodbye. The torch was passed to the new president of ESSWE, Andreas Kilcher, who offered his closing remarks. And then Henrik Bogdan and Christian Giudice said a few words and sent us on our way.
This is the point where I want to thank all the conference organizers and volunteers for putting on such a fantastic conference. Everyone involved was amazingly helpful and friendly and the conference itself was spectacular. I can’t begin to imagine all the work that goes into making a event like this happen, let alone all the associated activities. So thank you.
The conference having wrapped for good, there were several hours to kill before the concert. I was lucky enough to have been invited by some fellow rapscallions to a house party. I could not say no; it is always nice when people invite you over to their place and let you drink all their whiskey. Which, of course, I did. Also, sorry for drinking all your whiskey.
As for White Stains, I’m an oldster, and grew up on the Wax Trax scene in the early nineties*, so I’ve seen Genesis Breyer P-Orridge do her thing before. Nevertheless, it was an interesting show and the younger scholars were clearly digging the atmospheric music, swirly lights, and existential spoken word. (For the record, I like swirly lights, too!)
With the conference officially over, this was a great opportunity to talk with some of the presenters sans the whole “What do you research?” thing. Bottom line: I had a blast getting to know everyone a bit better. Also, I highly doubt the AAR will ever host an evening with a pangendered, counter-cultural icon, so bonus points to ESSWE for taking the plunge and going there.
And that was it.
It should come as no surprise by now to learn that ESSWE is not your typical conference. While it certainly was focused on research and scholarly pursuits (Let me be clear, there were no panels on how to do magick—the approach to the topics was strictly academic.), at the same time the atmosphere was definitely collegial and down-to-earth. Even as an undergrad, I never felt that anyone took me less seriously just because I wasn’t working on my PhD. I met many great people and had a most excellent time. If you are interested in esotericism academically, or even just find these sorts of topics fascinating, I recommend attending an ESSWE conference.
The next one is in 2015, you have plenty of time to prepare.
Many thanks to Annet van der Meer for taking photos of the ESSWE Sub-group panel. You can learn more about her work here.
Read all the posts on the ESSWE4 conference here.
*In Chicago, because I am from Chicago.