PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Religious Conversions Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

This Unit studies the full spectrum of issues related to religious conversions, in any historical or geographic context, encompassing different forms of religious belief and practice. The scope of the issues we cover is broad and wide-ranging. We consider investigations into the reasons for various types of religious conversions including, but not limited to intellectual, theological, philosophical, historical, experiential, psychological, social, cultural, political, and economic causes. We also study the consequences of religious conversions, both individually and socially, and their implications. We encourage the methodologies of multiple disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary approaches. More narrowly focused areas of inquiry suggested by interested scholars include, but are not limited to the following:

• Multiple conversions
• Group and individual conversions
• Forced conversions
• The narrative and/or literary aspects of conversions
• Hybridity
• Ecclesiological consequences of conversion
• The place and role of conversion in a specific religious tradition
• Theories of conversions
• Formulas of religious conversion (as step-by-step processes)

Call for Papers: 

Individual paper or full paper/panel session proposals (with a preference for the latter) are welcome on any topic related to religious conversion, including, but not limited to the panel topics proposed at the 2018 business meeting (the person whose name is listed in parentheses has expressed an interest in organizing the panel). They are:

● Contested Conversions - Theoretical and/or actual cases that involve question of criteria for religious conversion, what "counts" as conversion, who determines if conversion has occurred (contact person TBA)

● Conversions and World Christianity with a special focus Pentecostals and Evangelicals (Daniel Shin,

● International scholarly projects on conversion (Athanasios Despotis,

● Natural Disasters and Conversion or Loss of Faith: Earthquakes, Hurricanes and Floods as religious experiences worldwide
(Michael McLaughlin,

● Phenomenological Approaches to the Effects of Conversion: Affective, Bodily, Mental (Cody Musselman,

● Conversion/Deconversion in contexts of religious persecution, genocide, or expulsions with particular interest in:

○ The Holocaust
○ Iberian Expulsion
○ The impact such conversions may or may not have on theologies of conversion and / or theologies of salvation (soteriology)
○ Contact person TBA
Co-sponsorship with the Holocaust & Genocide and Comparative Theology program Units

● Conversions to and Deconversion from Mormonism (Taunalyn Rutherford, Co-sponsorship with the Mormon Studies Unit

Turns and Returns: Conversions to and away from Eastern Orthodoxy
(Brandon Gallaher,
Co-sponsorship with the Eastern Orthodox Studies Unit - 
This proposes session will bring together papers on religious conversions to and away from Eastern Orthodox Christian churches. Over the past decades, there has been a “turn to tradition” among North American Catholic and Protestant Christians who become Eastern Orthodox (Herbel 2013; Slagle 2011). In addition, post 1991, citizens of post-socialist countries have “returned” to Orthodoxy as part of a search for ethnic roots and new moralities, sometimes as part of an exploration of other options on the religious marketplace (Pelkmans 2009; Headley 2010). Both trends have sparked debates about distinctive Orthodox approaches to conversion, rooted in histories of missionization and theological anthropologies. We invite papers that illuminate contemporary conversions to and from Orthodoxy from theological, ethnographic, historical, or psychological perspectives, in Orthodox-majority or diaspora settings.


Headley, Stephen. 2010. Christ after Communism: Spiritual Authority and Its Transmission in Moscow Today. Rollinsford: Orthodox Research Institute.
Herbel, Oliver. 2013. Turning to Tradition: Converts and the Making of an American Orthodox Church. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pelkmans, Mathijs, ed. 2009. Conversion after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms and Technologies of Faith in the Former Soviet Union. New York: Berghahn.
Slagle, Amy. 2011. The Eastern Church in the Spiritual Marketplace: American Conversions to Orthodox Christianity. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press.

● Economies of Conversion: Circulation, Consumerism, Commodities, Production, and Valuation (

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection
Still works well for us.
ChairSteering Committee