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Luigi Corvaglia (Lecce, 30 January 1966) is a scholar who studies the relationship between power and submission and an Italian anti-cult activist. He is a psychologist, psychotherapist, lecturer, science writer, essayist and conference speaker.

The central theme of Corvaglia's reflections is free will and its limits, especially with regard to the relationship between persuasion and personal freedom.

Contribution to the study of totalitarian cults

Corvaglia's contribution to the study of totalitarian groups is extensive, encompassing both scholarly research and activism with original arguments that have resonated widely in the international 'cultic studies' community. His activity covers the following areas in particular:

1. the theoretical elaboration of a model of undue persuasion,

2. the logical refutation of the arguments of the defenders of abusive cults 

3. the investigative work on the international network linking these cult advocates to the sodalities they defend and to certain political circles.  


In the three areas indicated, he has produced, respectively:

1. an explanatory model of persuasion that goes beyond the concept of 'brainwashing', thus circumventing the argument used by cult apologists that 'anti-cult' scientists are promoting an unscientifically valid idea. The 'persuasion as preference shifting' model has been published in academic journals in Italy (e.g. here), internationally (e.g. here) and in the book No Guru, with a foreword by Janja Lalich, internationally recognised cult expert and professor emeritus at the University of California.

2. An analysis of the argumentative fallacies used by so-called 'cult apologists' to defend the work of abusive and coercive groups. In particular, Corvaglia highlights the aporias of 'liberal' argumentation in defence of absolutism. He is responsible for dividing apologists into 'relativists' and 'differentialists'. An overview of these arguments can be found at the page Pills of logic on "brainwashing".

3. an investigative work based on the analysis of open sources on the network linking international interest groups defending 'religious freedom' with controversial sects, their defenders (the apologists) and parts of the state administration. A compendium of this work is the well-known report on the geopolitics of 'cults'.

Especially in the latter activity, the author was slandered by unidentifiable authors to make him untrustworthy, a technique known in the jargon as 'dead agenting', examples of which Corvaglia has humorously collected here.



Roles and activities in international bodies

After serving as Vice-President for a long time, he became President of the Centre for the Study of Psychological Abuse (CeSAP) in 2015. He is a member of both the Scientific Committee and the Board of Directors of FECRIS, the Fédération Européenne des Centres de Recherche et d'Information sur le Sectarisme, a non-governmental organisation based in Marseille that brings together 60 anti-sexism associations from 32 countries.

He is also a member of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), the leading international network of scholars working on constrictive and totalitarian groups.

He is the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) delegate to the ODHIR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) in Warsaw, where he represents FECRIS.

He is also the FECRIS contact person at the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) in Vienna.

He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Open Minds Foundation in Tucson, Arizona (USA).

Since 2023, he has been an advisor to the Brazilian Observatory on Cults, established at the University of San Salvador de Bahia.

He collaborates with the Police Academy of the Republic of Kazakhstan.



Communicator and lecturer on the subject of abusive cults

Corvaglia has participated in the FECRIS conferences in Copenhagen (2103) , Brussels (2014), Marseille (2015), Sofia (2016), Brussels (2017) , Riga (2018) , Paris (2019) , Bordeaux (2021), Brussels (2022), Marseille (2023) and has spoken at the OSCE Assembly on Human Rights in Warsaw since 2014.

in 2017, the Government of the Siberian Federal District (Jamelo Nenec Arctic District) selected him as a lecturer on group constriction for a seminar at the Arctic Circle in Salekhard.

In 2020 and 2021, he gave a seminar on cults and manipulation organised by the government of Tatarstan in Kazan and a lecture on the geopolitical use of the concept of religious freedom at the International Centre for the Study of Eurasia (ICSE) conference in Paris.

Corvaglia has been written about in both Italian (Il Fatto Quotidiano, MicroMega, Linkiesta, Affari Italiani, Panorama, L'Opinione, La Stampa, La Notizia, Wu Ming Foundation, Vanity Fair, A Rivista Anarchica, La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, L' Espresso, Nuovo Quotidiano di Puglia, Reset, Critica Liberale, etc.) and foreign (USA, China, Iran, Spain, France, Russia) magazines, and has been a guest expert on various Italian (all RAI channels and Sky) and foreign (France, Russia) television programmes.

He collaborates as a writer with important cultural magazines in the secular and progressive field, such as Critica Liberale, Reset and MicroMega, as well as investigative journalism, such as Senza bavaglio.

The book research "Nella Setta" (In the Sect) by Carmine Gazzanni and Flavia Piccinni (Fandango, 2018) contains various excerpts from conversations between the authors and Luigi Corvaglia, while his explanatory model of manipulation is described in popularised form in the book "Lo scisma emerso" (Terra Santa, 2022) by Vaticanists Antonioli and Verrani.


Scientific and educational activities

Corvaglia publishes articles in Italian and foreign scientific journals. He is the author of several books and dozens of articles on freedom in all its aspects (philosophical, political, clinical and criminological). Some of his works have been translated into English, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish, Russian and Croatian.

He is a reviewer for Psychology of Religion and Spirituality", the American Psychological Association's journal  on the psychology of religion, and for the "International Journal of Coercion Abuse and Manipulation", the only scientific publication on cult abuse published by ICSA.

He is a staff member of the Department of Elements of Forensic Medicine and Criminology at the University of Salento, a lecturer in Forensic Medicine at the Unimeier Popular University in Milan and in Intervention and Social Research Methodology and Conflict Management Methods and Techniques at the Training Centre for Social and Health Assistance (CEFASS) in Lecce.

He is a member of the Forensic Science Study Group at the University of Siena ( Mental Manipulation Section).

He is on the list of lecturers at the Police Academy of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

He is on the list of expert instructors at the Superior School of Magistracy and is an honorary judge at the Court of Appeal of the Court of Bari.

Luigi Corvaglia is mentioned in Speech No. 4-08243 in the Senate of the Italian Republic (17th Legislature), in Speech No. 4-05429 (18th Legislature) and in Bill No. 1725 (introduction of Article 600.1 of the Criminal Code on personality impairment), 18th Legislature. It is also mentioned in Bill 227/2023 ( Dispõe sobre a criação de Delegacias Especializadas de Atendimento à Vítima de Abusos em Contexto Religioso e Afins (DEVAR) e dá providências correlatas) of the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo in Brazil.


Born in Lecce, he lived in Casarano, where he graduated from the local "Liceo Classico". He graduated in psychology in Rome and specialised in cognitive behavioural therapy at the Italian Society of Psychosomatic Medicine (SIMP), also in Rome. He has completed various master's degrees and advanced training in criminology, addiction medicine and neuroethics. He has completed trainings and collaborates with leading international experts on coercive cults.

He is a senior psychologist in the Department of Pathological Addictions of the local health authority of Bari and collaborator of the Chair of Criminology at the University of Salento.

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