Apocalypse and Utopia, 1914-1945
Submission deadline: 4 February 2021.
Symposium date: 18 February 2021.
While the apocalyptic resonances of the great global conflicts of the twentieth century are well known, the continuity and convulsion in social, political and wider cultural understandings of apocalypticism and utopic idealism across the span of the World Wars and the interwar years has received only limited academic attention. This online symposium will explore the evolution of existing and the emergence of new apocalyptic and millenarian thinking, groups, and movements during the period from the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, through the interwar period, and up to the end of World War Two in 1945.
It is intended that the symposium will consider apocalyptic and millenarian thinking in a broad sense and across geographies to include ostensibly political, secular, and socio-cultural subjects in addition to explicitly religious groups and movements where these capture, encode, or express themes of apocalypticism, utopianism, or the interaction of these two.
Alongside explicitly religious topics such as the emerging peace-movements associated with the mainstream churches in the aftermath of the Great War, and the flourishing of “prophetic-gnostic” non-traditional forms of religious and spiritual expression, discussion might include the shadow cast by the Great War on creative expression through the interwar period including apocalyptically inflected art and literature, political visions with millenarian patterns in Russia and China, and the emergence of Nazi messianism in Weimar Germany, and broader themes of millennialism discernible in transnational mechanisms like the Balfour Declaration and the Versailles Treaty.
Academics working within these and related areas are invited to propose papers as the basis for discussion within the symposium which will take place online on Thursday 18 February 2021.
See the main symposium page for more information.
(The image of the Corcovado from São Clemente street in Rio de Janeiro before the construction of the Christ the Redeemer statue is a public domain work from Coleção Gilberto Ferrez / Instituto Moreira Salles.)
This event took place on 19 November 2020. Following the event, contributors were invited to provide brief videos/podcasts summarising their papers, these are available on the main symposium page.
With the growth of scholarly interest in the religious and theological tropes encountered in video games, there is a developing awareness of the special valence of apocalypticism, millenarianism, and associated themes in video game narratives and gameplay. This virtual symposium invites academic explorations of the role of apocalypse and utopia in video games. We welcome discussions of a wide-range of approaches to ultimacy and cosmic destiny in video games. Topics might include, but are not limited to, analysis of narratives of apocalypse and utopia, eschatology broadly conceived, themes of final revelation deriving from religious scriptures and traditions, allusion to Edenic origins and Kingdom of God conclusions to history, epochal accounts of cosmic dissolution and regeneration, messiahs, antichrists and their cognates.
Academics working within these themes are invited to propose papers as the basis for discussion within the symposium. We encourage presentation of early-stage and speculative discussion points as well as more developed material. The symposium will take place virtually/online
Please see the main symposium page for more information.
This event took place on 14 August 2020.
Predictions of the end of the world? Metaphors for social and political transformation? Language of a scribal elite? Voice of the marginalised? Hope in trouble times? Creation of a persecution complex.
Means of control and categorisation? Exclusive access to divine authority? Literary genre? Since the 1970s the study of apocalyptic literature, apocalypticism, and millenarian movements in the ancient world has received a remarkable amount of scholarly attention from experts working on a range of material from different historical, literary and cultural contexts. The aim of this online symposium is to bring together researchers working on these interrelated approaches and to generate discussion across academic fields.
We work with a broad understanding of ‘apocalypticism’ and related terms, and we will also consider papers which interrogate the conventional categories or assess possible precursors to such ideas. We also work with a relatively broad understanding of ‘ancient world’, from the Ancient Near East to the Roman Mediterranean, and so the term is not restricted to (but certainly includes) the areas of Hebrew Bible, Christian origins, and early Judaism. We welcome submissions on case studies, thematic issues, textual analysis, and theoretical approaches. Presentations may take the form of a short academic paper or a summary of a potential or ongoing research project. We encourage presentation of early-stage and speculative discussion points as well as more developed material.
Please see the main symposium page for more information.
This event took place online on 4th June 2020. Following the event, contributors were invited to provide brief videos/podcasts summarising their papers, these are available on the main symposium page.
In the 1970s Ronald Reagan is reported to have told Sen. James Mills that “everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ” and that “Ezekiel says that fire and brimstone will be rained upon the enemies of God’s people. That must mean that they will be destroyed by nuclear weapons” (1985, San Diego Magazine). Reagan’s views echoed a widespread and religiously inflected Cold War grammar in the West – what has come to be known as the “religious Cold War” (see Dianne Kirby 2013 in Oxford Handbook of the Cold War; Andrew Preston 2012 in Religion and the Cold War). Despite de facto state atheism, Cold War discourse took on a religious tenor in the Soviet Union as well. For example, Miriam Dobson has recently described a state-sanctioned Soviet peace movement which sought to co-opt religious groups within the Soviet Union, and which found itself in tension with an emerging popular apocalypticism (2018, Journal of Contemporary History 53(2)). Alongside these more explicit articulations, apocalyptic and millenarian themes can also be discerned in implicit or covert ways in wider domains: presentations of technology and the space race, perceptions of Marxism, the evolution of architectural and design aesthetics, etc. As scholarship extends understanding of the complex interaction of religious thinking and the Cold War, this one-day virtual symposium – The Cold War and The End Times: Apocalyptic and Millenarian Themes in Politics, Society and Culture, 1946-1989 – brings a particular focus to apocalyptic and millenarian aspects of these discourses during the period between Churchill’s coining of the “Iron Curtain” and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is intended that a broad definition of apocalyptic and millenarian frameworks, including secular formulations which implicitly draw on or encode religious or supernatural themes alongside discourses which are understood in conventional religious terms, should be applied.
Please see the main symposium page for more information.
Very sadly, because of the current coronavirus pandemic we have had to take the decision to cancel the CenSAMM 2020 annual conference.
It was clear that the event could not go ahead as we planned with the travel restrictions internationally and we would not want to risk the health of our participants.
We were grateful for some very good submissions, and we were looking forward to what was shaping up to be an excellent meeting. We will of course plan to hold the conference in 2021, and we hope that all those who have submitted papers will do so again next year.
For those who have already registered, we will cancel these individually and refund your registration payment to you.
Once again, we are very sorry to have to cancel the conference, but we thought this was the best decision for all involved.
The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) is pleased to announce its 2020 annual conference, to be held at the University of Bedfordshire UK (Bedford Campus) 29-30 June 2020. The theme of the conference is:
The Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements: Critical and Interdisciplinary Approaches.
The aim of the annual conference is to facilitate critical and interdisciplinary discussion of apocalypticism, millenarianism and associated movements across time, place, and culture. Academic fields include anthropology, archaeology, biblical studies, critical theory, cultural studies, history, literary studies, political studies, psychology, religious studies, sociology, etc. The interdisciplinary scope is broadly understood to include methodologies, comparative approaches, and showcasing of research more specific to individual fields of expertise.
Catherine Wessinger (Loyola University, New Orleans)
Douglas Davies (Durham University, UK)
Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University, UK)
We invite individual paper proposals from scholars at all stages of their career, including postgraduates, and we welcome suggestions for group panels.
Please submit proposals to the Academic Directors Prof James Crossley (St Mary’s University, Twickenham) and Dr Alastair Lockhart (University of Cambridge) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions for papers should include a 300-word abstract and short CV.
Deadline for proposals: 31 March 2020.
Please see the SAMM 2020 conference page for more information.
The CfP in .pdf format is available here.
The Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM) first annual conference was held at the University of Bedfordshire (Bedford Campus) 27-28 June 2019.
A conference report for the 2019 conference is available here.
The aim of the annual conference is to facilitate critical and interdisciplinary discussion of apocalypticism, millenarianism and associated movements across time, place, and culture, and will cover academic fields such as anthropology, archaeology, biblical studies, critical theory, cultural studies, history, literary studies, political studies, psychology, religious studies, sociology, etc. The interdisciplinary scope is broadly understood to include methodologies, comparative approaches, and showcasing of research more specific to individual fields of expertise.
Speakers in 2019 included:
John J. Collins (Yale Divinity School)
Vanessa Harding (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Bill McGuire (University College London)
Sarah Rollens (Rhodes College)
Beth Singler (University of Cambridge)
Fatima Tofighi (EUME, Berlin/University of Religions, Qom)
Paul-Francois Tremlett (Open University)
The conference timetable is available for download.
Since the early modern period, societies located in different parts of the planet have experienced natural disasters. Ranging from earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, from flooding to tidal waves, communities have variously responded to unpredictable and catastrophic natural events.
Strategies of human resilience to shattered urban and rural territories were undertaken against a backdrop of cultural responses to trauma caused by natural disasters. Located within a variety of contexts (notably religious, political and socio-economic), natural disasters have usually modified collective perceptions of the world, time, and the position of humans in history. Within a millenarian context, natural disasters have often been interpreted as a prelude to the end time. From a political angle, natural disasters have been seen as the solution to a dystopian world characterized by political ineptitude, moral decay and unsustainable inequality. Similarly, within a religious context, natural disasters have often been interpreted as rooted in the relationship between humans and the divine. Thus, disasters have been interpreted as the first manifestation of divine judgement against human misconduct, and as a prelude to the apocalypse.
This conference seeks to explore the different forms through which the idea of natural disasters and the apocalypse has taken shape in geographically distant and culturally different societies from the early modern period to the present.
The word ‘apocalypse’ originally indicated an ‘unveiling’, and the speaker in the Book of Revelation is a ‘seer’. This is perhaps one of the reasons that this ancient text (and others like it) have generated such a ferment of creative responses in the visual arts – as well as those other non-visual strands of the arts which have their own way of engaging our mind’s eye.
The rich variety of types of artistic unveiling (visual, musical, dramatic, literary) makes an engagement with the creative arts a deeply valuable way of understanding and appreciating the idea of apocalypse, alongside more traditionally academic modes of enquiry.
This conference seeks to explore our relationship to art, its practice, its study and what the arts unveil to us. As artists or as audiences of art we can be profoundly transformed by our encounters with artistic creativity; indeed, we can find ourselves using the language of revelation to describe such encounters, regardless of our individual faith, religion or beliefs. Mark Rothko is quoted as saying, “the people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them.”
Recently ‘AlphaGo’, a Google/Deepmind programme, defeated the two most elite players at the Chinese game ‘Go’. These victories were, by current understandings of AI, a vast leap forward towards a future that could contain human-like technological entities, technology-like humans, and embodied machines. As corporations like Google invest heavily in technological and theoretical developments leading towards further, effective advances – a new ‘AI Summer’ - we can also see that hopes, and fears, about what AI and robotics will bring humanity are gaining pace, leading to new speculations and expectations, even amidst those who would position themselves as non-religious.
Speculations include Transhumanist and Singularitarian teleological and eschatological schemes, assumptions about the theistic inclinations of thinking machines, the impact of the non-human on our conception of the uniqueness of human life and consciousness, representations in popular culture and science fiction, and the moral boundary work of secular technologists in relation to their construct, ‘religion’. Novel religious impulses in the face of advancing technology have been largely ignored by the institutions founded to consider the philosophical, ethical and societal meanings of AI and robotics.
This symposium seeks to explore the realities and possibilities of this unprecedented apocalypse in human history.