CFP « CONVERSIONS »: Religions, transmutations and politics

Call for papers

N° 2 | 2015 – CONVERSIONS: Religions, transmutations and politics

Editors: Nadia Fadil, Guillaume Roucoux.

Complete CFP to download here (PDF).


According to the first edition of the Dictionnaire de l’Académie Française (1694), conversion refers to “change”, “transmutation”, although it “also refers to matters of Religion and morals, and means a change of beliefs, feelings and morals from bad to good.” Even though the religious meaning has been relegated to a position of secondary importance in this dictionary and the following, it became of primary importance in conversion studies under the influence of theology. Throughout history, anthropology, sociology and social psychology or transdisciplinarity (Brandt et al. 2009, Baktouche  et al., 2012), this meaning of conversion acquired a growing scientific interest during the 20th century despite the secularization of our societies and the decline of religion’s influence on individuals.

Drawing from a Christian culture, early studies of conversion understand it in the one-off and unpredictable mode of awakening, illumination, or even ecstasy (Starbuck, 1900; Clark, 1929). Conversion was redefined and conceptualized only in the course of the 20th century, first regarding heritage; and later on regarding seekership (Hervieu-Léger, 1999). The rise of new religious movements has given conversion phenomena an accrued size and visibility. Like the inaugural Lofland-Stark model (1965; Lofland, 1977; Snow et al., 1980), a plethora of models has emerged from the social sciences. The Lofland-Stark model and subsequent studies have radically changed the definition of conversion: it is no longer an one-off event, but a process or a career (Richardson et al., 1977; Richardson, 1978; Bankston et al., 1981).  Studies aim to know its motives (Lofland et al., 1981) and its effects on personality (Travisano, 1975; Straus, 1976; Dawson, 1990; Barker, 1995). Scientific debates focus then on the “active” or “passive” role of the individual, leading to question conversion through recruitment (Richardson, 1985). Conversion is a meaningful word as well, as it is an opportunity to think about other notions and experiences, among which the notions of commitment (Lynch, 1977; Richardson, 1977; Stapples et al., 1987), addiction (Simmonds, 1977), or even infection (Laycock, 2010).

This outline of a genealogy of religious conversion reveals that, by dint of interrogations, analysis, refining, theoretical uses or attrition, conversion has become a classic theme of religious studies. Meanwhile, it has developed outside of those studies as a tool able to describe different phenomena. Conversion now exceeds the sole register of religion. By offering to work on it as it is, from its descriptive plurality, this issue aims to exhume, highlight, and possibly create other meanings in order to inject a critical power in it as well as reclaiming it as a concept (Baillé, 2007). By doing so, we also question the relation between conversion and what Michel Foucault described as the “care of the self”: the corporeal, affective and discursive work of the self as a way to transform oneself. By opening this concept to other realities, we also wish to examine the relevance of this signifier and its function in discourse. What happens when a social transformation (whatever it is) is labeled with the term “conversion”? What is the relationship between those phenomena and the daily work on the self of every subject? Can we affirm that conversion operates as a neutral analytical concept or does this concept have a specific role in the denaturalization process of certain (which ones?) practices of transformations of the self? This issue seeks to approach conversion as a useful category of analysis in the work on power relations that structure, limit and bound our lives, thoughts, desires, bodies and spaces. Authors are invited to write proposals that fit into one or several of the following themes.

  1. Religious conversions, social categories and power relations.
  2. Body conversions and identity transmutations.
  3. Strategical conversions and political threats.
  • Deadline for submitting proposals: April 15th, 2014
    Acceptance decisions will be communicated by the end of April 2014
  • Deadline for sending complete articles: October 1st, 2014
    Definitive acceptance: mid-October 2014
  • Publication: Spring 2015