From the Archives: Evelyn Lord on ‘Scandalous Societies’ past and present


From Secessio Vol.1 No.2, an excerpt of Evelyn Lord’s fascinating history of the secret clubs that have scandalised civilised society over the centuries. Evelyn is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge and author of The Hellfire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies and The Knights Templar in Britain. Read the full essay here.

In 1937 Bataille founded his own scandalous and secret society Acephale. Its aims and rites are still secret, but some hints of these were disclosed by a member later in the twentieth century, and can be tentatively reconstructed from the articles in the journal Acephale and Bataille’s other writings. Bataille’s aim was to bind together a community and awaken it to the fatality of destruction and death, through a new religion based on that of the Aztecs ‘fierce and malevolent’ religion, promoting an intense spirituality throughout either blackest death or intense eroticism (Surya 2002, 245).

The community was to be male, with one or two women, and at its inception had nine members. However, some members of Bataille’s circle were notably absent, and like the Beggar’s Benison pool of potential members they may well have been deterred by what might happen at the society’s meetings, as in 1927 Bataille wrote a gruesome and anally fixated account of a sacrifice, and there was evidence that Bataille was looking for a willing human sacrifice, and a sacrificer. Unsurprisingly, neither was forthcoming.

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Ambiances, Alloaesthesia: Senses, Inventions, Worlds

The proceedings of the 4th International Congress on Ambiances are now available for download via the HAL open science platform here. Conference abstract as follows:

After the Congresses of Grenoble (Creating an Atmosphere, 2008), Montreal (Ambiances in Action, 2012) and Volos (Ambiances, Tomorrow: The Future of Ambiances, 2016), this 4th International Ambiances Network Congress, entitled “Ambiances, Alloaesthesia: Senses, Inventions, Worlds” questions the renewal of the forms of feeling in a world that is undergoing major changes. It aims to consider how the contemporary environmental, social, technological, political and ethical changes are likely to affect the sensitive worlds, their ambiances, and the ways of experiencing them.

This conference brings together more than a hundred scientific contributions coming from an international base of academics, practitioners, artists and PhD students working on ambiances and atmospheres. They offer an up-to-date account of the variety of themes and issues within this field, showcasing the latest research and methodological approaches. Organized in sixteen themed sessions, the presentations examine the ongoing preoccupations, debates, theories, politics and practices of this field, drawing on multidisciplinary expertise from areas as diverse as anthropology, architecture, computer science, cultural studies, design, engineering, geography, musicology, psychology, sociology, urban studies and so on.

→ Visit the E-conference website
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Lockdown Wanderings as an Antidote to Habit

By James Horrox

We humans are nomadic creatures. For 99 percent of our existence as a species, anthropologists believe, we’ve been on the move. Some scientists have argued that a propensity for travel, novelty and adventure is actually encoded in our DNA. Either way, we don’t take well to confinement.

Confinement, however, is precisely what’s defined our shared experience of the last twelve months. For many, the sudden inability to travel much beyond our own neighborhoods brought with it a very real, very natural sense of claustrophobia. But being forced to stay close to home, while obviously limiting our experience in many respects, also opens up possibilities for experiencing the things around us in a new, perhaps more intense way, channeling our desire for novelty towards experiences that may be close at hand, but which we’ve never previously thought to explore.

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