Presentation: Universalising the Other: Reptilians, the New Age and Globalisation

Here, for your delectation, is my presentation from the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion study group – SOCREL – conference, 2012, entitled Universalising the Other: Reptilians, the New Age and Globalisation. It was part of a panel on “Religious Conspiracies” which I organised. Here’s the abstract:

This paper examines belief systems which emerged during the 1990s and broadened their appeal over the last decade, blending popular conspiracy theories with New Age narratives. Typically, they propose that an occluded elite work to controll and oppress humanity, physically aand spiritually, but that when enough individuals become cognisant of their oppression, the transformation and emancipation of humanity will occur. Using David Icke’s notorious Reptilian thesis as an example, I argue that these metaphysical conspiracist narratives present a conception of the Other which locates the origin of social inequity in non-human agencies, rather than ethnic or ideological differences. Thus, Icke creates a popular theodicy which accounts for the problem of evil within a globalised and pantheistic worldview. i argue that Icke’s thesis – and metaphysical conspiracism more broadly – is an attempt to explain away the failure of the New Age and the Enlightenment project more broadly to create a world of peace and plenty in the 20th Century.

As you listen to the audio (player below), you can follow the powerpoint slides on the embedded player underneath. I hope you enjoy.

News in Brief

It’s been a pretty busy time for me of late. I’m just back (and recovering) from the British Sociological Association’s Sociology of Religion Study Group (SOCREL)’s annual conference, which this year was held in Durham. As well as a few recordings for the Religious Studies Project, I presented a paper entitled Body Bags and Seed Banks: A Material Approach to Conspiracist Apocalypticism as part of the panel Materiality, Secrecy and the End of the World with Joseph Webster and Timothy Jenkins of Cambridge University. Great fun and very interesting; Joe I’ve known for a while, and I consider him a very talented anthropologist, and Tim I met for the first time, but hope to talk more with him in future. I may work the paper up for publication later.

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The conference also gave me the opportunity to see my latest publication “in the wild” – “(Always) Living in the End-Times: The Rolling Prophecy of the Conspiracist Milieu” in the INFORM/Ashgate volume Prophecy in the New Millennium.

Conference and RSP aside, publications have been the major reason why I’ve been so busy in the last couple of months. A paper on David Icke will be coming out in the next issue of the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, and I’ve also been preparing a long paper on Whitley Strieber for Nova Religio. I have one more conference in May, but from now until September, I’ll be concentrating on my PhD. The next chapter – on David Icke – needs to be finished this month.

Ethan Quillen, Kevin Whtesides, Charlotte Ward, David Voas at SOCREL 2012

Well, I’ve been a busy boy recently…

At the SOCREL (sociology of religion) conference in Chester, I organised a panel on “Conspiracy Theories and Religion”, with papers from myself, Charlotte Ward (quantitative demography), Kevin Whitesides (2012 as conspiracist teleology) and Ethan Quillen (on Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns“). Smaller audience than I’d hoped, and we had some issues with a hyperactive air conditioning system, but was a success in terms of content. I hope to have some audio for you soon.

My chapter on Robert Anton Wilson and Discordianism was published in the Brill Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production. I got a real thrill when it arrived in the post – my first real academic publication.

My review of Jeffery Kripal’s Authors of the Impossible was published in the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 2/2.

A number of unfortunate freshers got me as their lecturer for the New Religious Movements portion of the Religion 1 course this year, where I taught them about Neopaganism, Wicca and New Age. I added in some material on Invented Religions, which seemed to go down well. I got great pleasure from projecting pictures of Aleister Crowley on the wall of the former Church of Scotland seminary. I imagined all the theologians looking up from their work, sensing a great disturbance in the force…

Over at the Religious Studies Project, I’ve interviewed Bron Taylor on Religion after Darwin, Linda Woodhead on the Secularisation Thesis and Graham Harvey on Animism, and taken part in our roundtable discussion on the Future of Religious Studies. There’s loads of other good interviews and articles on the site too. Chris and I are delighted with the success it’s had so far, but we’re only getting warmed up.

My chapter on prophecy in the conspiracist milieu for the INFORM volume When Prophecy Persists – Prophecy in the New Millennium has just been finalised, and I’m now preparing to go down to London to present it at the one-day seminar they’ve organised at the LSE. This will the first time I’ve been invited to take part in a conference, and also my most high-profile presentation to date. And my second book publication of 2012. Or, as I like to refer to them, Robertson 2012a and Robertson 2012b.

The following weekend I’m off to Nashville, Tennessee, to do some participant ethnography at Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland Festival. More about that soon.

For now, bed. I have two boys who will be waking me all too soon.