Enthralled Subjects: Cults, Conversion, and Quarantine Fixations
Poulomi Saha, English, UC Berkeley, and Grace Goudiss, PhD Candidate, History, UC Berkeley
In this conversation, professor Poulomi Saha and PhD candidate Grace Goudiss discuss the enduring popularity of popular media surrounding “cults,” and this kind of content’s seemingly renewed relevance in the context of quarantine. What is it about these narratives that draw us in? What is a “cult” anyway, and why do many experts chafe at the term’s overuse? How are these groups understood as religious and/or pathologized as criminal? These “cults”/new religious movements and the narratives of current and former members become an object of almost cult-like fixation by many fans who are entranced by the strangeness, transcendence, and sometimes tragedy of their stories. Saha and Goudiss tackle questions of faith, skepticism, conversion, and the many ways in which “cult” content helps nonbelievers understand themselves and their world.
As part of the Berkeley Democracy and Public Theology Program, BCSR’s Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic brings together scholars and the public to address the current pandemic and its commensurate crises, exploring the intersection between religion and timely topics such as the environment, public health, elections and democracy, religious freedom, and nationalism in order to foster dialogue and reflection.
The Berkeley Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic is generously sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation