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Ascribing ‘Religion’ To Technopaganism: A Pragmatist-Semiotic Approach

Victoria Dos Santos
University of Turin

Gorazd Andrejč
University of Groningen and Institute for Philosophical Studies, Science and Research Centre of Koper

In this paper, we are discussing technopaganism as an illuminating test case of ascribing ‘religion’. Beyond the well-established Abrahamic religions, ascribing or not ascribing ‘religion’ to socio-cultural phenomena is wrought with cultural, social, political, spiritual and secular significance, as well as wrought with various theoretical problems. This is manifested in an interesting way in the case of technopaganism: a term encompassing a variety of practices and expressions related to contemporary Paganism, popular culture, and spiritual pursuits in digital environments since the 1990s. Many self-described technopagans would not consider themselves as ‘religious’, nor technopaganism as ‘religion’. Against this background, we explore what it means to nevertheless describe this borderline phenomenon as ‘religion’, basing our investigation on a combination of Wittgensteinian-pragmatist and semiotic approaches. In line with the former, we begin by taking ‘religion’ and ‘technopaganism’ as family-resemblance concepts: no exhaustive definition or ‘essence’ of either religion or technopaganism is needed in order for these concepts to work – and to work together. Furthermore, since religion is “what we are willing and able to take it to be” (De Vries/Cavell), ascribing ‘religion’ to technopaganism assumes responsibility for this discursive move which can reach beyond a merely academic context. Finally, and according to the semiotic perspective consistent with the above, we suggest that describing technopaganism as ‘religion’ means interpreting the practitioners as poetically rewriting digital environments and their functions as sacred ‘spaces’ and ritual practices, respectively, and through this, re-enchanting the experiential and social worlds enabled by contemporary digital technology.



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