Associate Professor Jay Johnston

Honours Coordinator, Studies in Religion

A20 - John Woolley Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 6840

Biographical details

Jay Johnston (B.A., M.ArtAdmin., M.Litt(Dist), M.A.Hons, PhD) is an interdisciplinary scholar who investigates ritual and its use in identity formation, healing practice and cultural exchange. She is particularly interested in the role of material objects, animals and the natural environment in these practices. Trained in religious studies, continental philosophy, gender studies, art history, Scottish and Nordic studies, Dr. Johnston’s research examines concepts of materiality, embodiment, image agency and epistemology. Central to this research is her conceptualisation of ‘subtle subjectivity,’ and its interrelation with beliefs about the body, senses, desire, aesthetic experience (cultivation of perception) and ethics.

These theoretical concerns are articulated via several research projects strongly grounded in the evaluation of lived experience including ritual practice and cultural exchange in Late Antiquity and in Scottish and Norse cultures pre-1400; complementary and alternative medicine and its historical precedents; and human–animal–environment relations.

Jay Johnston participates in a wide range of academic activities including as co-coordinator of the Women Scholars Network: International Association for the History of Religions and as a Series Editor, with Garry Trompf (Sydney) and Jason BeDuhn (Northern Arizona), of Gnostica (Routledge) and member of the Editorial Board for the International Association for the History of Religions Book series, "The Study of Religion in a Global Context" (Equinox) and the journal Religion (Taylor and Francis).

Research interests

  • Esoteric and Mystical Traditions esp. magic and divination
  • Archaeology of Religion/Religion and Material Culture
  • Religious and Philosophical Aesthetics
  • Embodiment and Intersubjectivity studies (incl. intermediary beings)
  • Ecocriticism and Animal Studies (incl. Shamanism)
  • Gaelic and Scandinavian cultures pre-1400
  • Theories of the Image/ Visual Arts
  • Feminist Philosophy of Religion
  • Museum and Curatorial Studies

Teaching and supervision

  • Sexuality, Gender and Religion
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Western Esotericism and Traditions of Magic
  • Consumerism, Popular Culture and Religion
  • Religion and Health
  • Religion and Animals
  • Religion and the Arts
  • Critical Theory of Religion and Research Methodology

Current research students

Project title Research student
Animal Grief Teya BROOKS PRIBAC
The Fetishisation Effect: Objects as Manipulating Forces in the Perpetuation of Genocide Breann FALLON
Exploring the Destruction of the Assyrian Historical Artefacts and the Assyrian Collective Identity Michelle SHAMOELL
Freedom of Religion or Belief under International Law and the Baha is of Iran Gil Marvel TABUCANON

Current projects

In addition to continued research on the body, health and religion and interdisciplinary research methodology, Jay Johnston is currently engaged in three areas of research:

Cultures of Rewilding & Rewilding Religion
This interdisciplinary project investigates the direct and indirect use of spiritual discourse in contemporary environment conservation programs. The project aims to assess the role and effectiveness of the secular presentation of such beliefs about ‘sacred’ nature in the production of meaningful connection to local environment and perception of community and individual wellbeing, including the degree to which they inform lifestyle and consumption choices. Johnston is particularly interested in the way in which Rewilding programs result in behaviour modification including the cultivation of particular sensory ‘habits’ and experience of a variety of epistemological modes e.g. creative engagement with the environment. This is an approach to the topic as not merely an issue of discursive analysis but also as experiences that result in long-term changes to participants’ sensory abilities. Pilot study funded by FASS Research Support Scheme 2016.

Affective Images: Insular, Late-Antique and ‘Esoteric’ Art & Aesthetics
This research topic encompasses a number of collective and individual projects. Its concern is the perception and interpretation of images and design elements found in manuscripts and on a variety of material culture from Late Antique Mediterranean and Insular contexts (especially early Christian manuscripts and material culture of the Picts). Analysis is extended to consider the reuse of such motifs in early modern and contemporary esoteric sources.

This topic includes:

  • the collaborative project "The production and function of art and design elements in ancient texts and artefacts of ritual power from Late Antiquity in the Mediterranean region." ARC Discovery Project. Role: Primary Chief Investigator with Iain Gardner, Julia Kindt (Sydney); Erica Hunter (SOAS) and Helen Whitehouse (Oxford). 2012-2016. Publication forthcoming.
  • Stag and Stone: Archaeology, Religion and Esoteric Aesthetics Forthcoming monograph that examines ontological concepts of image agency, materiality and landscape. The case studies examined are drawn from Norse and Celtic cultures and contemporary art practice.

Antiquarian ‘Magic’ and Religion
This project examines the legacy of antiquarian thought in Cornwall and Scotland on the perception of religion (especially paganism) and its relation to interpretation of archaeological sites and material culture. Current focus: “Landscapes of Lived Belief: Prehistoric 'Religion' and Its Antiquarian Spirit.” Investigates the construction of the contemporary subject area of ‘Prehistoric religion’ and its dominant interpretative frameworks including the legacy of antiquarian thought. This project also considers the role attributed to alternate forms of perception in the cultures examined.

Associations

PhD and master's project opportunities

Selected grants

2013

  • Human Animal Research Network; Probyn-Rapsey F, Belov K, Black C, Degeling C, Fawcett (Quain) A, Irvine R, Johnston J, Lea T, Kindt J, Michael M, McGreevy P, McManus P, Raubenheimer D, Schlosberg D, Spurr B, Shine R, Wadiwel D; DVC Research/Research Network Scheme (SyReNS).

2012

  • The function of images in magical papyri and artefacts of ritual power from Late Antiquity.; Johnston J, Gardner I, Kindt J, Whitehouse H, Hunter E; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

Selected publications

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Books

  • Johnston, J. (2008). Angels of desire: esoteric bodies, aesthetics and ethics. London: Equinox Publishing.

Edited Books

  • Johnston, J., Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2013). Animal death. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Samuel, G., Johnston, J. (2013). Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]

Book Chapters

  • Johnston, J. (2016). Enchanted Sight/Site: An Esoteric Aesthetics of Image and Experience. In Peik Ingman, Terhi Utriainen, Tuija Hovi, Mans Broo (Eds.), The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization: Changing the Terms of the Religion Versus Secularity Debate, (pp. 189-206). Sheffield: Equinox Publishing.
  • Johnston, J. (2016). Objects and Ancient Religions. In Julia Kostova, John Barton (Eds.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, (pp. 1-22). New York: Oxford University Press. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2016). Slippery and Saucy Discourse: Grappling with the Intersection of 'Alternate Epistemologies' and Discourse Analysis. In Frans Wijsen, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Making Religion: Theory and Practice in the Discursive Study of Religion, (pp. 74-96). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2016). The Elf in Self: The Influence of Northern Mythology and Fauna on Contemporary Spiritual Subcultures. In Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Marie Cudmore, Stefan Donecker (Eds.), Imagining the Supernatural North, (pp. 235-250). Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Body/Embodiment. In Robert Segal, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, (pp. e1-e10). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Deviance. In Robert Segal, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, (pp. e1-e6). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Gender and the Occult. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 681-691). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). The Body in Occult Thought. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 659-671). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Vampirism, Lycanthropy, and Otherkin. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 412-423). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2013). A Deliciously Troubling Duo: Gender and Esotericism. In Egil Asprem, Kennet Granholm (Eds.), Contemporary Esotericism, (pp. 410-425). Sheffield, United Kingdom: Equinox Publishing.
  • Samuel, G., Johnston, J. (2013). General Introduction. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 1-9). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J., Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2013). Introduction. In Jay Johnston, Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animal death, (pp. xiii-xx). Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Johnston, J. (2013). Introduction to Part Four. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 187-191). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2013). On having a furry soul: transpecies identity and ontological indeterminacy in Otherkin subcultures. In Jay Johnston, Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animal death, (pp. 293-306). Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Johnston, J., Samuel, G. (2013). Subtle Bodies in Europe and Islam: Introduction to Part Three. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 117-119). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2013). Subtle Subjects and Ethics: The Subtle Bodies of Post-Structuralist and Feminist Philosophy. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 239-248). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2012). Theosophical Bodies: Colour, Shape and Emotion from Modern Aesthetics to Healing Therapies. In Carole Cusack and Alex Norman (Eds.), Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production, (pp. 153-170). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Barcan, R., Johnston, J. (2011). Fixing the Self: Alternative Therapies and Spiritual Logics. In Michael Bailey and Guy Redden (Eds.), Mediating Faiths: Religion and Socio-Cultural Change in the Twenty-First Century, (pp. 75-87). Surrey: Ashgate. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2011). Reading the Body Invisible: Subtle Bodies, Astrology, and Energetic Healing. In Nicholas Campion and Liz Greene (Eds.), Astrologies: Plurality and Diversity, (pp. 201-216). United Kingdon: Sophia Centre Press.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Cyborgs and chakras: intersubjectivity in scientific and spiritual somatechnics. In Carole M. Cusack, Christopher Hartney (Eds.), Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf, (pp. 313-322). Leiden: Brill.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Hermetic embodiment: angels and intersubjectivity. In Marius Timmann Mjaaland, Ola Sigurdson and Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (Eds.), The Body Unbound: Philosophical Perspectives on Politics, Embodiment and Religion, (pp. 183-195). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Physiognomy of the Invisible: Ritual, Subtle Anatomy and Ethics. In Axel Michaels (Eds.), Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual, (pp. 351-359). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Subtle anatomy: the bio-metaphysics of alternative therapies. In Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Kevin White (Eds.), Medicine, Religion, and the Body, (pp. 69-78). Leiden: Brill.

Journals

  • Johnston, J. (2017). Stone-agency: Sense, Sight and Magical Efficacy in Traditions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Religion. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Editor's introduction: Surprising stratigraphy: Religion, archaeology and folklore. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 28(2), 101-103. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2011). Prolegomena to Considering Drawings of Spirit-Beings in Mandaean, Gnostic and Ancient Magical Texts. ARAM Periodical, 22, 573-582. [More Information]
  • Gardner, I., Johnston, J. (2010). The Liber Bartholomaei on the Ascension: edition of Bibliotheque Nationale Copte 132 f. 37. Vigiliae Christianae, 64(1), 74-86. [More Information]
  • Gardner, I., Johnston, J. (2009). The passover litany of the ''Liber Bartholomaei'': edition of Bibliotheque nationale copte 1321 F.40. Journal of Coptic Studies, 11, 61-70. [More Information]
  • McPhillips, K., Mudge, P., Johnston, J. (2007). Shifting Selves: The Struggle for Identity and Spirituality in the Work of Three Young Women Artists. International Journal of Children's Spirituality, 12(3), 233-247. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J., Barcan, R. (2006). Subtle transformations: Imagining the body in alternative health practices. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(1), 25-44. [More Information]
  • Barcan, R., Johnston, J. (2006). The Haunting: Cultural Studies, Religion and Alternative Therapies. Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(Fall), 63-81.
  • Johnston, J. (2002). The Theosophical Glance: Fluid Ontologies, Subtle Bodies and Intuitive Vision. Australian Religion Studies Review, 15(2), 101-117.

Conferences

  • Johnston, J. (2011). The Body in Wellbeing Spirituality: Self, spirit beings and the politics of difference. Religion and the Body, Finland: Donner Institute.

2017

  • Johnston, J. (2017). Stone-agency: Sense, Sight and Magical Efficacy in Traditions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Religion. [More Information]

2016

  • Johnston, J. (2016). Enchanted Sight/Site: An Esoteric Aesthetics of Image and Experience. In Peik Ingman, Terhi Utriainen, Tuija Hovi, Mans Broo (Eds.), The Relational Dynamics of Enchantment and Sacralization: Changing the Terms of the Religion Versus Secularity Debate, (pp. 189-206). Sheffield: Equinox Publishing.
  • Johnston, J. (2016). Objects and Ancient Religions. In Julia Kostova, John Barton (Eds.), Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, (pp. 1-22). New York: Oxford University Press. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2016). Slippery and Saucy Discourse: Grappling with the Intersection of 'Alternate Epistemologies' and Discourse Analysis. In Frans Wijsen, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Making Religion: Theory and Practice in the Discursive Study of Religion, (pp. 74-96). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2016). The Elf in Self: The Influence of Northern Mythology and Fauna on Contemporary Spiritual Subcultures. In Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Marie Cudmore, Stefan Donecker (Eds.), Imagining the Supernatural North, (pp. 235-250). Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

2015

  • Johnston, J. (2015). Body/Embodiment. In Robert Segal, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, (pp. e1-e10). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Deviance. In Robert Segal, Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.), Vocabulary for the Study of Religion, (pp. e1-e6). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Editor's introduction: Surprising stratigraphy: Religion, archaeology and folklore. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 28(2), 101-103. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Gender and the Occult. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 681-691). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). The Body in Occult Thought. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 659-671). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2015). Vampirism, Lycanthropy, and Otherkin. In Christopher Partridge (Eds.), The Occult World, (pp. 412-423). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. [More Information]

2013

  • Johnston, J. (2013). A Deliciously Troubling Duo: Gender and Esotericism. In Egil Asprem, Kennet Granholm (Eds.), Contemporary Esotericism, (pp. 410-425). Sheffield, United Kingdom: Equinox Publishing.
  • Johnston, J., Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2013). Animal death. Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Samuel, G., Johnston, J. (2013). General Introduction. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 1-9). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J., Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2013). Introduction. In Jay Johnston, Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animal death, (pp. xiii-xx). Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Johnston, J. (2013). Introduction to Part Four. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 187-191). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2013). On having a furry soul: transpecies identity and ontological indeterminacy in Otherkin subcultures. In Jay Johnston, Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (Eds.), Animal death, (pp. 293-306). Sydney: Sydney University Press.
  • Samuel, G., Johnston, J. (2013). Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J., Samuel, G. (2013). Subtle Bodies in Europe and Islam: Introduction to Part Three. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 117-119). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2013). Subtle Subjects and Ethics: The Subtle Bodies of Post-Structuralist and Feminist Philosophy. In Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (Eds.), Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between mind and body, (pp. 239-248). Abingdon, UK: Routledge. [More Information]

2012

  • Johnston, J. (2012). Theosophical Bodies: Colour, Shape and Emotion from Modern Aesthetics to Healing Therapies. In Carole Cusack and Alex Norman (Eds.), Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production, (pp. 153-170). Leiden: Brill. [More Information]

2011

  • Barcan, R., Johnston, J. (2011). Fixing the Self: Alternative Therapies and Spiritual Logics. In Michael Bailey and Guy Redden (Eds.), Mediating Faiths: Religion and Socio-Cultural Change in the Twenty-First Century, (pp. 75-87). Surrey: Ashgate. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2011). Prolegomena to Considering Drawings of Spirit-Beings in Mandaean, Gnostic and Ancient Magical Texts. ARAM Periodical, 22, 573-582. [More Information]
  • Johnston, J. (2011). Reading the Body Invisible: Subtle Bodies, Astrology, and Energetic Healing. In Nicholas Campion and Liz Greene (Eds.), Astrologies: Plurality and Diversity, (pp. 201-216). United Kingdon: Sophia Centre Press.
  • Johnston, J. (2011). The Body in Wellbeing Spirituality: Self, spirit beings and the politics of difference. Religion and the Body, Finland: Donner Institute.

2010

  • Johnston, J. (2010). Cyborgs and chakras: intersubjectivity in scientific and spiritual somatechnics. In Carole M. Cusack, Christopher Hartney (Eds.), Religion and Retributive Logic: Essays in Honour of Professor Garry W. Trompf, (pp. 313-322). Leiden: Brill.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Hermetic embodiment: angels and intersubjectivity. In Marius Timmann Mjaaland, Ola Sigurdson and Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (Eds.), The Body Unbound: Philosophical Perspectives on Politics, Embodiment and Religion, (pp. 183-195). Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Physiognomy of the Invisible: Ritual, Subtle Anatomy and Ethics. In Axel Michaels (Eds.), Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual, (pp. 351-359). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
  • Johnston, J. (2010). Subtle anatomy: the bio-metaphysics of alternative therapies. In Elizabeth Burns Coleman, Kevin White (Eds.), Medicine, Religion, and the Body, (pp. 69-78). Leiden: Brill.
  • Gardner, I., Johnston, J. (2010). The Liber Bartholomaei on the Ascension: edition of Bibliotheque Nationale Copte 132 f. 37. Vigiliae Christianae, 64(1), 74-86. [More Information]

2009

  • Gardner, I., Johnston, J. (2009). The passover litany of the ''Liber Bartholomaei'': edition of Bibliotheque nationale copte 1321 F.40. Journal of Coptic Studies, 11, 61-70. [More Information]

2008

  • Johnston, J. (2008). Angels of desire: esoteric bodies, aesthetics and ethics. London: Equinox Publishing.

2007

  • McPhillips, K., Mudge, P., Johnston, J. (2007). Shifting Selves: The Struggle for Identity and Spirituality in the Work of Three Young Women Artists. International Journal of Children's Spirituality, 12(3), 233-247. [More Information]

2006

  • Johnston, J., Barcan, R. (2006). Subtle transformations: Imagining the body in alternative health practices. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 9(1), 25-44. [More Information]
  • Barcan, R., Johnston, J. (2006). The Haunting: Cultural Studies, Religion and Alternative Therapies. Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(Fall), 63-81.

2002

  • Johnston, J. (2002). The Theosophical Glance: Fluid Ontologies, Subtle Bodies and Intuitive Vision. Australian Religion Studies Review, 15(2), 101-117.

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