Current Projects (Apart from PhD Thesis):

Right, now for a bit of work planning and summarising.  I find writing out lists like this reminds me to get on and write the darned things!

  • BASR/EASR Conference Papers (to be written for September 3rd-6th Conference):

Big, Bad Pharma: New Age Biomedical Conspiracy Narratives and their Expression in the Concept of the Indigo Child

5.7 million American children aged 3 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Approximately two thirds of those diagnosed have been prescribed amphetamine based drugs such as Ritalin as a treatment. Diagnoses and prescriptions are also increasing exponentially in the UK. Diagnostic checklists include: fidgeting, answering questions before they are finished and being unable to stick at long and tedious tasks.

In this paper I will explore New Age conspiracy narratives which accuse the pharmacological industry, or Big Pharma, of collusion with schools to turn naturally active children into compliant drones. In particular, I will describe the category of the Indigo Children: allegedly a special, intuitive, spiritual generation appearing since the 1980s. This category celebrates the inability of some children to fit into mainstream systems while actively attacking the commercial machinations of ‘Big Pharma’ involving children: over-medication, but also harmful vaccinations and genetically modified foods.

Blame Sheila: The 2011 UK Census, ‘Other Religion’ and the Rhetoric of Narcissism

This paper will consider the 2011 Census question on religious affiliation, specifically responses under the category of ‘Other Religion’ where the public was able to write down a choice instead of box ticking. Answers included, ‘Jediism’, ‘Scientology’, ‘Wicca’, ‘Spiritual’, ‘New Age’, ‘Heavy Metal’, and ‘Own Belief System’, amongst others.

Parallel with an overview of sociological approaches to new religious movements and spiritualities I will discuss how the numbers in this category of ‘Other Religion’ have been reported on, including their changes from the 2001 census results.  I will explore how reactions to this part of the census have replicated a rhetoric of narcissism and individualism, such as seen in Bellah’s (1985) definition of ‘Sheila-ism, while they have also dismissed answers voluntarily made as cynical parodies or ‘spoilt papers’.

Bellah, Robert (1985) Habits of the Heart, (California: University of California Press; 3Rev Ed edition (7 Sep 2007)

  • Harvard Conference Abstract for October Graduate Conference (Submitted, waiting to hear, end of July)

The Indigo Child as Other, the Indigo Child as Self: Forms, Categories and Experimentations within a Contemporary Online Spirituality

…today’s children are different – more challenging, more intelligent, more confrontational, more intuitive, more spiritual, and in some cases even more violent – from any generation we have yet seen”.[1]

The Indigo Child is a category that has emerged within the New Age Movement that expresses several important religious and spiritual themes and scientific speculations.  Indigo Children are considered to be an especially psychic, sensitive and innovative generation which first appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Interpreted variously as psychic warriors, revolutionary trouble makers or messianic heralds of the New Age, Indigo Children are both a source of celebration and of parental concern.  The category has been used to explain behavioural issues in children, including those that the mainstream would consider biomedical in origin, such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and the therapies advised by Indigo experts represent technologies of the self and a way of employing scientific discoveries which has its origins in the broader history of metaphysical religion in the West.

However, the category can also be a description that individuals choose for themselves.

This paper introduces my PhD research into the Indigo Children as a contemporary spirituality, or New Religious Movement, and will problematize the distinction between self-labelling and the labelling of others, a distinction that is often unremarked upon by the community itself.  I have explored this issue through fieldwork with New Age groups, interviews with Indigos and their parents, and through a historical consideration of the origins of the concept from both New Age and scientific, secular source material.


[1] Virtue, Doreen (2001). The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children. Pub. Hay House UK Ltd.

  • Book Chapter: New Religious Movements, the Internet and Legal Pluralism: Scientology and Jediism (Title to be worked on! And it needs a new Abstract): Rewrites due end of September
  • Rewrite of journal article on Pro-Ana based on MPHil research for resumbmission (I have a writing course next week I am going to be using this project as a sample to work on, so hopefully that will get this project going again!)

PHEW!

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