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The Supernatural: Sites of Suffering in the Pre-Modern World

A one-day interdisciplinary conference to be held 14th May 2022

Keynote Speaker: Professor Diane Purkiss

Call for Papers

Plain text version

Call for Papers

The concept of ‘the supernatural’ has consistently proven itself to be a lively and fertile ground for academic debate and exchange. Across the globe, countless societies and cultures, both past and present, have their own distinctive mythologies and faiths to which unusual or inexplicable phenomena can be attributed. An ever-present theme in such supernatural narratives, irrespective of their contextual setting, is that of suffering. For often when faced with hardship, it is to the supernatural that many turn in seeking to explain, perform, or resolve the anguish they find themselves experiencing. Whether this suffering is personal or collective, physical or mental, ‘real’ or ‘imagined’, other-worldly narratives offer a unique window into understanding humanity’s complex relationship to suffering when worldly explanations or expressions of it fall short.

The Supernatural: Sites of Suffering in the Pre-Modern World will be a one-day interdisciplinary conference that brings together scholars in an effort to disentangle this symbiosis of suffering and the mystical, magical and metaphysical. Our objective is to weave together the various strands of research into the supernatural, the study of which is often segmented. Our mission to promote wider interdisciplinary exchange is happily facilitated by the broad epistemological fluidity of the supernatural.

While this conference takes the supernatural as its primary analytical theme, and as such is pitched towards scholars of the supernatural and related religious phenomena, the implications of such research expands far beyond this field. Supernatural events bespeak the concerns and anxieties of the temporal and geographical contexts in which they are located, and thereby offer possibilities for wider studies of individuals, societies, and cultures.

We will be blogging about our individual research, the themes of the conference, and our experience in putting on this HRC funded event.

Read our first blog post, The Supernatural: Reflections on Research 

Our second blog post, The Supernatural: A Global and Transhistorical Approach is now live

Saint Peter the martyr exorcizing a woman possessed by a devil

Image credit: Art Institute of Chicago Creative Commons CC0 1.0

Conference email 



Conference blog

Keep up to date with the conference via the HRC blog


Francesca Farnell and Imogen Knox

Find them both on Twitter at @frfarnell and @Imogen_Knox