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What is Esotericism? Cultural Studies Approaches and the Problems of Definition in Religious Studies

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image of Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

There is an ongoing debate whether esotericism could be a meaningful subject for Religious Studies. The recent history of the academic research into esotericism will be presented and critically discussed, how it has tried to define its subject and how this discussions have reached an impasse. It is proposed that certain theoretical perspectives from cultural studies offer alternative ways in determining a research subject, especially one based on Ernesto Laclau’s concept of “empty signifiers.” This argument will be followed by a methodological application that translates the theoretical considerations into a concrete and specific research design of discursive networks.

Affiliations: 1: Universitaet Heidelberg, Email:


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