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Religious Conversions Unit

Call for Proposals

The Religious Conversions Unit welcomes individual paper 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 2022 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:

“Bricolage” Conversion and the New Metaphysicals/SBNR folk: How do online, virtual, social media-based, and remote religious “conversions” or personal religious transformations involve experiences and immersion in communities in ways that differ from “traditional” on-ground, in-person, or face-to-face conversions? Do such religious conversions / personal transformations result in more of a personal bricolage than what results in “traditional” contexts of conversion? How are levels of participation and degrees of dedication affected by such non-traditional “conversions” / personal transformations? (contact:


Conversion and the Current Political Moment: Conversions impacted by and/or impacting the current political climate, with sample topics including but not limited to: conversion and white nationalism; conversion and pandemic-related issues such as science, conspiracy theories, ideological conversion and religious conversion; and the relationships between religious affiliation and political affiliation. (contact: Edith Szanto,


Initiation: Conversion by Another Name? (Co-sponsored with the Islamic Mysticism Unit)

“Initiation” has been a longstanding paradigm for understanding personal religious transformation in a variety of religious communities and contexts, in both the orient and occident, in ancient religions through New Religious Movements. How does “initiation” as a paradigm for religious transformation compared to that of “conversion” in an initiatory context, especially in the context of Islamic Mysticism? How are they similar and how are they different? Or does “initiation” amount to “conversion” by another name? How does the study of initiation challenge the assumptions of the conversion paradigm and contemporary conversions studies? (Contact: Edith Szanto,


Conversion, Race, and Racialization (Co-sponsored with the South Asian Religions Unit)

Conversion is often a disruptive process that unsettles entrenched patterns of belonging, social hierarchy, and the distribution of social capital. How does the study of conversion illuminate the entanglement of race, religion, and nation, or even the production of these constructs in modern and contemporary South Asia? (contact: Eliza Kent,


Neuroscientific and Cognitive approaches to conversion (potential co-sponsorship with the Cognitive Science of Religion Unit)

This panel/call invites papers grounded in cognitive and/or neuroscientific approaches to understanding religious conversion. Potential topics include brain-based technologies for spiritual enhancement (e.g., "Spirit Tech" by Wildman and Stockly); spiritual practices' effects on the brain (e.g., "When God Talks Back" by Tanya Luhrmann); the relationship between mindfulness, meditation, and neuroplasticity; and similar topics. (contact: Marc Pugliese,

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)


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs and steering committee members at all times