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10 May 2012
Got out the bucket list? We are nearly half way through 2012 and on December 21 a cataclysmic event is supposed to occur which according to some will be the end of the world.
"2012 is the year, according to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end," explained newly arrived Deakin University academic, Dr Anna Halafoff.
Dr Halafoff, from the University's Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation is organising a free seminar 2012: End Times or New Beginnings? for The Australian Sociological Association's (TASA) Sociology of Religion Thematic Group.
"Scholars have been studying the 'Mayan end times prophecy' phenomenon in the lead up to 2012 and we are lucky that two of the leading experts in 2012 Studies, Dr Joseph Gelfer and Associate Professor Pete Lentini from Monash University, are based in Melbourne and will speak at the seminar," Dr Halafoff said.
"The response to their presentations will be made by leading sociologist of religion Associate Professor Douglas Ezzy from the University of Tasmania.
"Doug Ezzy's research interests include narratives about the future, Witchcraft, Paganism and contemporary spirituality, so it is going to be a colourful evening."
Dr Gelfer said the idea of 2012 was a potent force – particularly people's interpretations of the impending apocalypse.
"Most people who are interested in 2012, work on the assumption that the grand day will usher in a new form of human consciousness, akin to the Age of Aquarius," he said.
"Some of these spiritually-inclined individuals view 2012 as something that will happen whether we like it or not; others have a more proactive view, assuming any changes that occur around 2012 must be the result of our collective actions.
"A smaller number of people interested in 2012 propose all sorts of Earth-destroying scenarios such as pole reversal, mega-tsunamis and crustal displacement (as seen in the blockbuster movie 2012), through to a massive asteroid colliding with our planet."
Dr Gelfer said regardless of people's positions, Australia was uniquely placed to experience the world's end or whatever event occurred on 21 December.
"First, our time zone means the region will be the first on the planet to experience the historic date; second, a month before the Big Day, Australia will enjoy a total eclipse of the sun," he said.
"It is a dream end of the world tourist package, for those so inclined."
Associate Professor Lentini said many religions, indeed groups such as the Branch Davidians of Waco and Aum Shinrikyo, used stories about the ends of days and the return of charismatic, divine beings ushering in salvation and a new era of peace and spiritual rejuvenation to justify their actions.
"What is important is that people understand how these narratives affect religious freedoms and, as a consequence, national security," he said.
The free seminar, on Tuesday 29 May supported by Deakin's Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation will be held at the Village Roadshow Theatrette, State Library of Victoria, Entry 3, 179 LaTrobe St, Melbourne from 7pm. Register email@example.com or get there early as places are limited.
About the Seminar
Dr Anna Halafoff
Research Fellow Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation
Mobile 0402 035127
Dr Joseph Gelfer
Mobile 0409 350 436