Abstract for ICSA Conference 2019 in Manchester


International Cultic Studies Association

2019 Annual Conference

Manchester, UK


Mapping the Cult Landscape with a New Lexicon – Why Words Matter: An Activist/Campaigner’s Perspective

Anne Khodabandeh

In the UK, laws criminalising Coercive Control and Modern Slavery have recently come onto the statute book. With many years of academic research, survivor testimony and therapeutic innovation behind us, why does the world of cultic studies still lack any laws to deal specifically with this phenomenon? From this activist’s perspective, it’s down to how we talk to the wider world. In Conference we are all specialists. We use our own language, or jargon, and we understand one another. We also co-opt language from other fields when it overlaps with ours – for example, coercive control, gaslighting, grooming etc to make sense of what we mean. This provides a helpful lexicon of new words and expressions to convey our meaning. This is especially important in activism and campaigning which involves talking directly to people and bodies who do not share our understanding in order to influence and persuade them. Yet at a time when mainstream media is beginning to embrace a modern understanding of words like cult and brainwashing (in terrorism for example), some in the cultic studies field remain coy of such descriptors. In this presentation I will argue for my preferred descriptor ‘cultic abuse’ and explain why I use this phrase as a meaningful definition to consolidate the knowledge and experience we have built up over the years that can be taken to policy makers, the media, human rights forums and other outside bodies in order to press for recognition, attitudinal change and, above all, a new law.

Link to the presentation speech

Find the full agenda, abstracts and bios for the 2019 International Cultic Studies Association International Conference HERE