Occult South Asia: Rethinking the History of Modern South Asian Religions and Spiritualities through the Lens of Esotericism Research and vice versa
The panel aims to discuss the entangled history and mutual transformation of modern Indian religions and spiritualities and esoteric/occult currents with a mostly Euro-American background.
· Karl Baier Department of Religious Studies, University of Vienna (Vienna, Austria)
The panel will focus on the cross-cultural encounters in the modern times between South Asian religions and cultural currents of Europe and the USA which are usually labeled as esotericism or occultism. Intense research over the past decades has shown the historical significance of the hybridization that took place through the mutual influence of both cultural spheres upon each other. The impact can be noted in currents such as the Bengal renaissance and Neo-Hinduism in general; theosophy; freemasonry; mesmerism; spiritualism; modern magic; Wicca; astrology in India and abroad; New Age practices and various forms of tantra as well as modern yoga. The resultant transculturation had serious implications in South Asia as well as within the global intellectual and religious history. Consequently, both the fields of South Asian studies and the study of esotericism need to mutually influence each other thus creating the highly interdisciplinary field of Occult South Asian studies. This emerging area of research inspires the expansion of the disciplinary boundaries of both South Asian Studies as well as the research on esotericism and occultism. Paper proposals with a focus on the intersection, integration, and appropriation of Indian religious and spiritual currents and modern esoteric movements and ideas, are welcome. This panel will be a continuation of the Occult South Asia workshop (Vienna, 2018), Psychedelic South Asia panel (ESSWE7 conference in Amsterdam, 2019) and the Occult South Asia book project (forthcoming). It aims to strengthen the Occult South Asia Network (OSAN).