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Harvard Conference 2023: Uses and Abuses of Power in Alternative Spiritualities.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, 2023



The “Uses and Abuses of Power in Alternative Spiritualities” conference gathers together a wide variety of scholars, artists, activists, and practitioners for thoughtful dialogue around the ethics of power in alternative spiritual communities. A preliminary schedule is now available on the conference website

For the purposes of this conference, we define “alternative spiritualities” broadly in keeping with the Program for the Evolution of Spirituality’s mission to support the scholarly study of emerging spiritual movements, marginalized spiritualities, and the innovative edges of established religious traditions.

 Website of the Conference

Di Marzio, Raffaella. 2023.“Choosing and leaving a spiritual community. Paths of change and personal development”.


This paper presents empirical findings from a qualitative study of affiliation/disaffiliation processes applicable to individuals choosing, changing, or leaving spiritual communities. It is argued that the processes involve internal dynamisms in one’s search for meaning and the acceptance of the proposal to join an organization, seen as capable of satisfying one’s needs and aspirations. The exercise or denial of personal agency in the affiliation/disaffiliation process has important implications for the psychological outcomes of the individual. Therefore, it is crucial to include the element of personal agency in discourse about power dynamics and potential for empowerment or harm within spiritual groups.

Presenter bio: Raffaella Di Marzio holds three degrees: in Psychology from La Sapienza University and Pontifical Salesian University; in Historical Religious Sciences from Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, La Sapienza University; and in Religious Sciences from Pontifical Lateran University. She received a PhD in Psychology from Salesian Pontifical University (Rome). Since 2017, she is Professor of Psychology of Religion at Master in “Terrorism, prevention of subversive radicalization, security and cybersecurity. Policies for inter-religious and intercultural integration and for deradicalization”, University of Bari Aldo Moro. She is member of the Italian Society of Psychology of Religion (SIPR) and Director of The Center for Studies on Freedom of Religion Belief and Conscience (LIREC). For more information, please see her profile page, list of publications, and the LIREC website. Presenter affiliation: Italian Society of Psychology of Religion (SIPR), Center for Studies on Freedom of Religion Belief and Conscience (LIREC), University of Bari (Italy), Italian Society of Psychology of Religion (SIPR)




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