The Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective undertakes the investigation of the apparent persistence of practices aimed at predicting, controlling, managing, and manipulating contingent life events, despite an increasingly dominant scientific and technical discourse that delegitimises them.
What do Chinese fengshui masters, Israeli experts in kabbalah ma‘asit, German Ritualmagier, Indian vastu-specialists, Egyptian saḥara, Caribbean brujos, West African Vodun practitioners, and Malayan bomoh exorcists have in common? How can we gain an understanding of their experiences and practices from a crosscultural perspective? Can we engage in comparative studies of these practices and experts without caving into potentially distorting Eurocentric stereotypes or an ‘imperialism of categories?’
Our main goal is to map a global field of research of such practices from a transcultural perspective and to compare the various interpretations, rationalisations, and legitimation strategies used by practitioners and their clients. Concomitantly, we aim at advancing theoretical explanatory models of the resilience of such practices in the face of dominant and exclusionary global scientific and technological discourses. As part of this effort, we encourage the development of nuanced metalinguistic classification schemas, contributing to future investigations of taxonomic frameworks of such practices, for the overall purpose of engaging with current debates about the possibilities and boundaries of post-phenomenological, non-essentialist comparative research.
Equipped with a contemporary and global focus, we promote a synergy of approaches from the fields of cultural and social anthropology, religious studies (including the cognitive study of religion and ritual), regional and literary studies, as well as social and political science.