Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Celebrating a year of the Albion Calling interview series !!!

1st December 2013 will mark a year since I inaugurated the Albion Calling interview series. Devoted to academics who specialise in the archaeology, history, and general development of religion and magic, there have been ten interviews so far, and it has proved itself a resounding success, being by far the most popular element of my blog. Throughout this interview series, I have had the opportunity to talk with a mix of people from all across the academic and scholarly spectrum, from particularly promising MA and PhD students at the very start of their careers to those who have retired to the comfortable position of Professor Emeritus, along the way fitting in a number of excellent independent scholars who operate free from the constraints of the academy. The one category that probably has been neglected is that of established academic lecturers and professors midway through their careers, who are usually far too busy with the demands of university life to devote some of their time to interviews such as this!

The late Dr. Evans.
Kicking off our series was the late, great Dr. Dave Evans, an independent historian of late 20th-century British occultism who was the author of a number of important books on the subject as well being the co-mastermind behind the now sadly defunct peer-reviewed Journal for the Academic Study of Magic. Following on from Dr. Evans was Chas S. Clifton, Professor Emeritus of Colorado State University-Pueblo, who is internationally known as one of the figureheads in the field of Pagan studies, being editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies and the author of one of the definitive studies of contemporary Pagan history in the United States. 

As January 2013 came around, we had our first archaeologist, the Australian Caroline Jane Tully, who is currently a doctoral student at the University of Melbourne studying Aegean tree cults and who has also published academically on the subject of the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley and Pagan reception of academic research. We remained in Australia to interview another scholar who is sadly no longer with us, Dr. Nevill Drury, who came to fame as a prominent advocate of Neo-Shamanism and Indigenous Australian art but who later earned his academic credentials with his studies of Aussie Witch Rosaleen Norton and other important publications on contemporary Paganisms and Western esotericism.

Archaeologist of British
folk magic Brian Hoggard.
The next subject of the series was the American religious studies scholar and thealogian Dr. Christine Hoff Kraemer of Cherry Hill Seminary, in an interview for which we discussed her work on contemporary Pagan theologies/thealogies, sexual minorities, and graphic novels. Back in Britain, I interviewed the independent archaeologist Brian Hoggard, one of the country's foremost specialists on the archaeology of folk magic, to discuss his attempts at cataloguing the evidence for apotropaic items found in British buildings. Later that month I conducted a dual interview with two then-master's students based at the University of Amsterdam, Jimmy Elwing and Aren Roukema, who have recently launched an exciting open-access peer-reviewed outlet for scholars, Correspondences: An Online Journal for the Academic Study of Western Esotericism.

Next up was the turn of another esteemed American scholar, Dr. Robert Mathiesen, Professor Emeritus of Brown University and co-founder of the Societas Magica academic fellowship, who provided us with a wonderful overview of his life and work in studying esoteric practices in the nineteenth and twentieth-century United States as well as his work on Medieval literature. Remaining in the States, I interviewed independent scholar Michael G. Lloyd, author of the excellent recent biography of prominent American Wiccan Eddie Buczynski. Turning then to Norway, it was the turn of Dr. Egil Asprem, an Associate Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who is a rising star in the academic study of Western esotericism. Not only is he the co-founder of the Contemporary Esotericism Research Network, but he has recently published his first book on the subject of Enochian magic, with further works coming soon.

Archaeologist and Pagan
studies scholar Caroline
J. Tully.
As this summary of a year's accomplishments shows, a heavy emphasis has been on interviewing scholars involved in Pagan studies and the academic study of Western esotericism. While these subjects do indeed fascinate me (and, more importantly, fascinate many of my readers), it is unfortunate that they have drawn so much of the focus, and I hope that in the coming year I can bring in more archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and religious studies scholars whose research focus lies outside of these select areas. In particular, I really want to bring in more archaeologists of religion, ritual, and magic, a subject that is close to my heart and which constituted the basis of my BA and MA dissertations, and which (I hope) will form the basis of my proposed PhD thesis. It is also unfortunate that there has been a clear bias towards white males in the interviewees featured, although I believe that this is down largely to the general bias within academia itself; despite attempts to diversify in recent decades, the academy remains, by and large, the domain of the middle-class heteronormative white male. 

But despite these problems, I think that this series has accomplished some great things in its first year. For one, it has created a platform from which academics and independent scholars can get their ideas and research across to a much wider segment of society. I'm aware that many of Albion Calling's readers are not academics themselves, but are still fascinated by the findings of scholarly research and the process by which it is conducted. I hope therefore that this blog has helped demolish people's ideas about the "ivory towers" of academia, and encouraged academic outreach into communities with whom professional scholars rarely interact. Second, I believe that this series has allowed for interdisciplinary discussion and discovery, with archaeologists, historians, and religious studies scholars all sharing the same electronic platform to discuss their own work and learn about that being undertaken in other disciplines. Maybe I'm tooting my own horn a little, but I'm really proud of this lecture series and I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all of those who have taken part in it. In particular, I think it apt to look back in memoriam at Dr Dave Evans and Dr Nevill Drury, two wonderful scholars who unfortunately each passed away several months after giving their informative and poignant interviews. Here's hoping that the next year will be equally exciting for this ongoing series. 

2 comments:

  1. Great work on getting these great interviews! Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thank you ! I already have some interviews with a number of pretty interesting scholars lined up for the new year, so watch this space.

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