Profiles

Per Faxneld

Per Faxneld

Fil. dr.

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Works at Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies
Telephone 08-16 33 34
Email per.faxneld@rel.su.se
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 E, plan 7
Room E 781
Postal address 106 91 Stockholm 106 91 Stockholm

About me

I hold a ph.d. in History of Religions (obtained in 2014). My field of specialisation is Western esotericism, new religions and "alternative spirituality" (e.g. Satanism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, New Age, the sacralization of physical excercise, etc), with a particular emphasis on how they are formed in tandem with processes of modernization (especially secularization). I have also worked from a sociological perspective with questions pertainng to strategies of legitimation, religious authority and identity formation. Other interests include religion and popular culture (reflection my background in cinema studies), folk religion (e.g. editing a critical edition of a folkloristic classic), gender issues, globalization and religion and violence. A key theme in my research is the relation between Western esotericism and art/literature.

My doctoral dissertation (Satanic Feminism: Lucifer as the Liberator of Woman in Nineteenth-Century Culture, awarded the Donner Institute Prize for Eminent Research on Religion, and later re-published by Oxford University Press) adresses how anti-clerical feminists – primarily during the time period 1880–1930 – used Satan as a symbol of rejecting the patriarchal traits of Christianity. I emphasized how these women were inspired by the period's most influential new religion, Theosophy, and how the anti-religious discourses of secularism impacted feminism.

The rest of my publications are mainly focused on contemporary groups, using methods like interviews and participant observation. Aside from the above topics, I am also interested in religious change in Vietnam (where I have lived for a year), Japan and other parts of East Asia. Recently, I wrote on the reception of Islam in the milieu of alternative spirituality, and I am working on a small study on Islam in popular culture. In total, I have published almost sixty articles and book chapters on these different topics. At present, I am supervising to Ph.D. students at SU, and I am always open for more such projects if they deal with my areas of specialization.

Outside of Stockholm University, I have also lectured at Uppsala University, Södertörn University College, the Royal Institute of Art and Mid-Sweden University. At the latter, I conducted a post-doc 2015–2017 ("Contemporary Representations of Lilith: Between Secularity and Re-Enchantment") . I frequently give talks in non-academic contexts as well, e.g. at museums like the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Vigeland Museum, Munch Museum (Oslo), National Museum of Poland (Krakow) and the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities (Stockholm). On several occasions, I have been interviewed on Swedish national radio (P1 and P2) and in Newspapers (e.g. Dagens Nyheter, Daily Telegraph) about my research.

 

 

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • Thesis (Doc) Satanic Feminism
    2014. Per Faxneld (et al.).

    Enligt Bibeln var Eva först med att lyssna till ormen och äta av den förbjudna frukten. Tanken på kvinnan som Satans utvalda är framträdande under stora delar av kristendomens historia. Under 1800-talet kom feminister att börja läsa denna misogyna tradition motvalls. Härigenom blev Lucifer omgestaltad till en kvinnans befriare, och den syndiga Eva förvandlades till en hjältinna. I dessa motmyter fick Satan rollen av en allierad i kampen mot Gud Fader och hans patriarkala prästerskap.

    Avhandlingen kartlägger hur sådan “satanistisk feminism” under 1800-talet kommer till uttryck i en rad esoteriska verk, självbiografier, pamfletter och tidskrifter, tidningsartiklar, målningar, skulpturer och till och med sådana konsumtionskulturens artefakter som smycken. Bland individerna som på olika sätt bidrog till diskursen finner vi exempelvis suffragetten Elizabeth Cady Stanton, den könsöverskridande teosofen Madame Blavatsky, författaren och diplomathustrun Aino Kallas, skådespelerskan Sarah Bernhardt, den antiklerikala häxentusiasten Matilda Joslyn Gage, den dekadenta markisinnan Luisa Casati och den luciferianska lesbiska poeten Renée Vivien.

    I materialet är särskilt fyra motiv framträdande: 1) omtolkningar av Evas roll i syndafallet som något positivt, 2) häxan som en protofeminist, 3) demonälskaren omstöpt till en befriare, 4) en feminiserad Satan som kontrasteras mot en förtryckande manlig Gud. Ett femte och något mindre centralt motiv är uppfattningar om Lilith, enligt judiska folkliga och esoteriska traditioner Adams rebelliska hustru innan skapelsen av Eva, som den första feministen.

    Analysen fokuserar på skärningspunkterna mellan esoterism och den politiska sfären, såväl som den påverkan som ockultism och konst utövat på varandra. Teoretiskt fokus ligger på motläsningar, motdiskurser och motmyter, samt det komplexa samspelet mellan dessa och hegemoniska diskurser som syftade till att demonisera feminismen. Ett nyckeltema i detta sammanhang är inverteringens gränser och paradoxer.

  • 2013. Per Faxneld. Occultism in a Global Perspective
  • 2013. Per Faxneld. International Journal for the Study of New Religions 4 (2), 201-230

    The article discusses some of the debates over the construction of gender taking place in the satanic and Left-hand Path (LHP) milieu, in particular the different varieties of upvaluing of “the feminine.” This includes disputes over what the term feminism entails, what the best strategies for women to gain more power are, and if “feminine” is an essence that can be contrasted with a fixed “masculine.”

    Notions of gender polarity as necessary for magical practice or cosmic balance are given special attention, as are borrowings from feminist terminology (e.g. “patriar- chy”) by figures that are far from feminist in orientation. Aside from tex- tual sources, the article draws on communication with 44 informants.    

    Three basic approaches to gender can be discerned in the milieu:  1) Gender as an insignificant category, 2) Gender as a natural polarity, 3) Gender as false consciousness. Of these, number two is the most common, while number one is quite seldom seen—gender is a major issue, one way or another. Femininity is frequently discussed by both men and women, while masculinity is a less popular topic. Femininity, then, is a particularly contested matter in the milieu.

    Overall, the dominant view of gender is that the two sexes should be strictly dichotomized. The article concludes that with some exceptions most organizations in the milieu are numerically dominated by men. However, some important groups have periodically been led by women, and there are several female key producers of ideology. The partly reactionary views concerning gender issues held by some female leaders indicate that female leadership does not necessitate that a conventional feminism would permeate the organization. Further, it is difficult to see any absolute correlation between female leadership and upvaluing of the feminine in mythology. Moreover, the article demonstrates, such upvaluing does not in itself always signify an underlying ideology of political feminism.

Show all publications by Per Faxneld at Stockholm University

Last updated: September 16, 2017

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