"Religious conversion in plural Societies past and present"
Sebastian Rimestad (Leipzig), Katharina Waldner (Erfurt), Helena Kupari (Helsinki)
Please find all relevant information about the Summer School "Religious Conversion in Plural Societies Past and Present" on the pages below.
Religious conversion is as elusive as it is topical in the contemporary world, where religious identifications and narratives have returned to the fore of political rhetoric and social scientific enquiry. The question of what constitutes a religious conversion can be asked from a variety of angles, not only on the theological, psychological, and sociological plane, but also as a political or legal definition. The necessity to gauge the sincerity of an asylum seeker’s conversion to decide his or her application is a case in point. What methods are appropriate to evaluate such a claim and who is qualified to judge such a case? But also less fateful cases of religious conversion can be ambivalent. Is a conversion from one branch of Christianity to another equal to a conversion from Christianity to Islam, for example? Or how does the de-conversion process of a former member of a closed religious community differ qualitatively from a conversion between Christian confessions? Is a conversion effectuated in 2022 in all aspects equal to one happening a century or more earlier?
At the same time, both the common sense idea and the scientific notion of “conversion” start from the premise that “religion” and “religious identity” are stable entities. But in contemporary societies, the idea of a stable religious identity is increasingly questioned through religious pluralism, bricolage mentality, and expressive social identities. Moreover, the idea of European societies being recipients of immigrants with a variety of fixed religious and cultural subjectivities is being increasingly challenged. Instead, the concept of “post-migrantische Gesellschaft” in Germany or “société métissée” in France are becoming prominent, claiming that it is no longer useful to talk about the dichotomy between “natives” and “incoming migrants” but rather acknowledge the fact that national societies are culturally heterogeneous in general. What does religious conversion mean in such a situation of cultural heterogeneity? The concept of religious conversion, as used in psychology and sociology of religion, religious studies, and everyday language, must be re-evaluated to account for this situation. But not only for contemporary societies – one can also ask whether societies in the past really were religiously homogeneous and what “conversion” meant in them – especially against the background of the globalised present.
The purpose of this summer school is to gather graduate students, early career researchers (PhD students) as well as senior experts from different disciplines as well as various geographical, cultural, and historical contexts ranging from antiquity to contemporary societies in order to explore and develop different and new approaches to the concept of religious conversion. Moreover, these various approaches will enrich each other and create synergies, which can then be used for collaborative projects or events in the future.
International Summer School “Religious Conversion in Plural Societies Past and Present”, Erfurt, 11.–15. July, 2022
Religious conversion is as elusive as it is topical in the contemporary world, where religious identifications and narratives have returned to the fore of political rhetoric and social scientific enquiry. Both the common-sense idea and the scientific notion of “conversion” start from the premise that “religion” and “religious identity” are stable entities. But in contemporary societies, the idea of a stable religious identity is increasingly questioned through religious pluralism, bricolage mentality, and expressive social identities. This raises a number of questions as to what constitutes a religious conversion and to what extent contemporary religious conversions conform to those of the past.
These questions and others will be approached from a variety of angles at a summer school addressed to graduate students (from advanced MA level to PhD) from a variety of disciplines, including Religious Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, History, Political Science, and others. It will take place in Erfurt, Germany from 11. to 15. July, 2022 at the Augustinian Monastery, where Martin Luther started his career as a recently converted Catholic monk. The summer school is organised by Dr. Sebastian Rimestad (Leipzig), Prof. Dr. Katharina Waldner (Erfurt), and Dr. Helena Kupari (Helsinki) and will include participant presentations, workshops, lectures, and an excursion. For confirmed participants, all expenses are covered, including travel (up to € 750), accommodation and food.
In order to participate, please send a motivation letter of 1-2 pages to summerschoolconversion(at)uni-leipzig.de by 31. January, 2022
The letter must include
- your educational background
- your current affiliation and place of residence (to calculate travel costs)
- your current research field and how this relates to the topic of conversion
- the title of your presentation for the summer school, including a short abstract
For further information, please visit https://www.gkr.uni-leipzig.de/religionswissenschaftliches-institut/summer-school/ or send an e-mail to summerschoolconversion(at)uni-leipzig.de
We look forward to the Summer School, which will hopefully be an opportunity to meet in person after a long period of uncertainty due to CoVid-19, opening up for a fruitful exchange of ideas and perspectives and bringing the study of religious conversion forward!
Sebastian Rimestad, Katharina Waldner, and Helena Kupari
The Summer School "Religious Conversion in Plural Societies Past and Present" will consist of four programme blocks:
Participant Presentations: Each summer school participant must briefly present his/her research (max. 20 minutes) in a conference setting.
Keynote Lectures: Renowned experts on aspects of religious conversion present their insights.
Thematic Workshops: These are guided discussions on pre-assigned readings led by experts.
Excursion: There will be one or more excursions to nearby attractions with a link to the topic of religious conversion.
The exact programme will be posted on this page as soon as it is ready.
Confirmed expert participants
This list is continuously expanded, as the experts confirm participation.
Sebastian Rimestad completed his PhD in Religious Studies on the Orthodox Church in Estonia and Latvia in 2011, and his Second Book on Orthodox Christian Identity in Western Europe in 2020. He is currently a Researcher at the University of Leipzig with a focus on Religious Conversion. His research interest are Religion and Modernity, Orthodox Christianity, and Religious Conversion.
Katharina Waldner is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Erfurt. She earned her PhD in History of Religion from the University of Zürich. Her research interests include Religions of Greek and Roman Antiquity, Early Christianity, Religion and Gender, and Ritual Theory.
Helena Kupari is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland. She earned her PhD in Religious Studies in 2015. Her ongoing research focuses on conversion to Orthodox Christianity among Finnish cultural workers. Her research interests include religion, gender, age, and class; religion and social transformation, practice theory, and lived religion.
Nella van den Brandt earned her PhD in Cultural Science on contemporary women's and social movements and religiosity from Ghent University (2014). She subsequently held a PostDoc position at the University of Utrecht on media and cultural representations as locations for studying religious transformation, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. Her new research is funded by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship and will be hosted by Coventry University. It focuses on women leaving religion in the UK and Netherlands. Her main research interests include Secularity, Gender/Sexuality Studies, Race and Religion Studies, Bodies and Embodiment, and the Construction of Emotion.
Ines W. Jindra is Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Idaho, focusing on Religion and Spirituality as well as Homelessness and Poverty. She earned her PhD in Education and Educational Psychology from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland) on the topic of Religious Conversions in 2005. Her main research interests include Narrative Biographical Interviews, Psychology of Religion, and Social Policy.
The Summer School "Religious Conversion in Plural Societies Past and Present" addresses young researchers (advanced M.A. level and PhD candidates), who deal with a topic related to religious conversion. This includes the academic disciplines of Religious Studies, Anthropology, Sociology, History, and Political Science. We plan to invite up to 15 participants, whose costs are covered.
The list of participants will be posted here when it is ready.
The Summer School takes place in the city of Erfurt in central Germany, the capital of Thüringen. Erfurt has a medieval origin and it was here that Martin Luther started his university studies. At one time, while he was on his way home, a fierce thunderstorm cam upon him and he promised to devote his life to the Church if he survived. As a result, he became an Augustinian monk in an Erfurt monastery, incidentally the exact venue of the Summer School.
For more information on the city of Erfurt, visit https://www.erfurt-tourismus.de/en/
For more information on the St. Augustine Monastery, visit https://www.augustinerkloster.de/en/
The Summer School is funded through the German Science Foundation (DFG) – Heisenberg Programme.