Ethnographies of the Esoteric

Introducing Anthropological Methods and Theories to the Study of Contemporary Esotericism

Susannah Crockford and Egil Asprem

In this article, we introduce the ContERN special issue on ethnographies of the esoteric. While the study of esotericism has been dominated by historical-philological scholarship, recent years have seen an increase in anthropological approaches to contemporary esotericism. We argue that this development provides the field not only with new tools, but also fresh perspectives on long-standing theoretical challenges. What are the implications of situating esotericism in particular ethnographic fieldsites? How does anthropological theory reflect on deep-rooted assumptions in the field? We address these questions using examples from the articles in the present special issue as well as other recent ethnographies of esoteric subject matter.