The current newsletter of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism is available for download. In it, some of the members discuss their current doctoral work. It is always interesting to see how new scholars are formulating just exactly what “esoteric studies” covers.
Like Pagan studies — there is some degree of overlap — esoteric studies (if I may personify it) struggles to find out who it is. Egil Asprem, doctoral candidate and blogger, writes,
On the one hand, you often hear that the field has now matured, but when you look for some of the signs that characterise a mature academic field it is hard to see them in practice. I am particularly thinking of the lack of agreement on fundamental issues, such as ”what is it”, ”how do we study it”, ”what’s its importance”, and ”how is it related to the broad spectrum of human activity”. If you pick up the three most popular introduction books to the field, you’ll find three very different ways of handling these fundamental questions.
Kocku von Stuckrad, an established scholar but still “younger” in academic terms, makes the comparison:
It is a kind of identity work that I perceive in the study of esotericism, but also in ”pagan studies” and related fields of research. This identity work often leads to a neglect of critical methodological reflection, which I find problematic. What we need is an active collaboration with as many colleagues as possible, no matter whether or not we like their definitions of esotericism, in order to build up networks that can make research into these historical and cultural dynamics sustainable for the future. If we study these phenomena as part of the cultural history of Europe and North America, in an increasingly globalized perspective, we will be able to integrate the field of Western esotericism” in larger research structures and critical scholarship. This will also help students who enroll in our programs to find a job after their studies.
More resources in the newsletter about courses and research opportunities, chiefly in Britain and the Netherlands.