Journal of Design History

8 August 2022

Until recently many academic disciplines and subjects avoided the subject of the occult, deeming it too ‘irrational or ‘eccentric’ for serious study. Exceptions to this include the discipline of anthropology, which since the 19th century, embraced the study of religion and belief from Western rationalist perspectives. In recent decades anthropology has explored magic and occultism from a broader range of viewpoints, including phenomenology, relativism, and post-structuralism. In the last two decades adjacent disciplines to design history such as history, art history, sociology, cultural studies, and film studies have increasingly embraced occult subjects. Likewise, the interdisciplinary field of environmental humanities has examined Indigenous, Western and Eastern ideas about the relationships between humans and the natural world, including esoteric, folkloric, and occult concepts.

However, within the field of design history esotericism, occultism, and magic have been largely overlooked with no sustained explorations of their relationships with design and the decorative arts. Notable exceptions to this include studies such as Zeynep Çelik Alexander, ‘Jugendstil Visions: Occultism, Gender and Modern Design Pedagogy’ Journal of Design History, Vol. 22, Issue 3, September 2009, pp. 203–226, and Elizabeth Otto, Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics (The MIT Press, 2019).

This call for a Journal of Design History Special Issue on design, the occult and magic seeks to redress this absence in design history by exploring the often complex relationships between design, craft, and decorative arts, and occult / magical ideas, beliefs, traditions, and practices.

The guest editor invites the submission of abstracts within the following sub-themes:

- The influence of occult or magical beliefs, ideas, and traditions upon practices of making, and / or the relationship between ideas or beliefs and designed objects.
- Objects and clothing designed for use in rituals or magical practice, and/ or the idea of designing and making as a ritual in itself.
- The role of occult and magical ideas in the development of design education, and / or design theories.
- The relationship between the occult , design, and technology, including photography and film, and digital technologies including social media, gaming, and AI.

Contributions which explore the field of design history and the occult / magic from all traditions and cultures are welcomed, as are submissions exploring traditions, beliefs, and practices from the 16th century to the present.

Abstracts of 500 words should be submitted to the guest editor Sally-Anne Huxtable The abstract submission deadline is 5th November 2022.


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