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Religious Conversions Unit

Call for Proposals

The Religious Conversions Unit welcomes individual papers or full paper/panel session proposals (with a preference for the latter) on any topic related to religious conversion, including, but not limited to the following topics in which the Religious Conversions Unit is especially interested in featuring at the 2023 annual meeting. We are particularly interested in papers and panels that challenge established understandings of the category of “conversion” and push the study of conversion in new directions.


Conversion, schism and sexuality.  Debates within and among religious communities over sexuality have been the occasion for schism within denominations and sects, and deconversion out of them, as seen most recently in the departure of several thousand individual churches from the 30,000-church strong United Methodist Church.  At the same time, sexuality, broadly construed, has itself been a motivating force in the reconstruction of sexual identity and sense of belonging for many individuals. We are seeking papers that take up the conjuncture of conversion and sexuality at the individual or collective level.  


Conversion of land and space.  How can the category of “conversion” be productively applied to the conversion of land, buildings and/or space from one use to another?  Contributions could consider the conversion of undeveloped land to agriculture, industry or mining, the conversion of religious structures such as churches and synagogues to breweries and nightclubs in secularizing societies, the conversion of religious structures from one religion to another or conflicts over the conversion of sacred indigenous land to secular purposes.  


Religious transformation in global perspective/Decolonizing Conversion.  “Conversion” is a category with deep roots in Christian, specifically Protestant, thought and culture.  How well or poorly does it apply to varieties of religious transformation in different religious and cultural contexts?  What do we mean by “conversion” in diverse socio-historical contexts beyond U.S. based Christianity?   

We also have a possible preplanned session to mark the 15th Anniversary of Carolyn Chen’s classic in conversion studies, Getting Saved in America:  Taiwanese Immigration and Religious Experience, for which we are not seeking proposals.

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
• Deconversions
• 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)


Steering Committee Members


Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members