Devils and Daemons: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference
August 7-9, 2019
“But what could Love be?” I said. “A mortal?
“He is a great spirit [Daimon], Socrates. Everything
classed as a spirit falls between god and human”
In Plato’s Symposium, the wise woman Diotima reveals to Socrates that “Daimons” (later Latinized to “Daemons”) are the intermediaries between the gods and humans, mediums for divination, prophecy, and other moments of divine possession. “Love” reveals immortal beauty to mortals in the Symposium, while Socrates’ “daimonion” whispers prophetic warnings into his ear in Plato’s Apology. Even happiness had a touch of the divine for the ancient Greeks; their word for happiness was “Eudaimonia.” As monotheism took hold in Europe, however, the Latin “Daemon” became the evil “Demon” of the Christian era, identified with the devils and fiends that meddle with the good work of angels. Thus, contact with these spirits became a sinful act, a change with real material consequences for peoples accused of witchcraft or spell-casting.
In the wake of modernity, a new binary has arisen, one that pits psychological, psychopathological, and neuroscientific explanations against the belief in the supernatural. This binary carries its own troubled legacy: colonialist injustice against those deemed to hold “savage, superstitious” beliefs; the institutionalization of the clinically insane; pharmaceutical companies and the capitalist exploitation of psychotropic drugs. Thus, the belief, or lack thereof, in the existence of “devils and daemons” has real material, biopolitical consequences, and we encourage and invite thoughtful engagement with this theme.
The Dalhousie Association of Graduate Students in English (DAGSE) invites submissions of paper presentations for “Devils and Daemons: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference.” We welcome proposals from students at all levels and in all areas of graduate study. We encourage proposals from marginalized voices and prospective presenters are welcome to self-identify in their proposals. This three-day conference will be held August 8th to 10th, 2019 at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Childcare will be provided upon request.