In This Article Religious Conversion

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Conversion Studies
  • The Anthropology of Conversion
  • Conversion to Christianity
  • Conversion to Judaism
  • Conversion to Islam
  • Conversion to Buddhism and Hinduism
  • Conversion to New Religious Movements
  • Conversion to Atheism and Agnosticism
  • Conversion and Gender
  • Conversion and Language
  • Conversion, Markets, and Prosperity
  • Conversion and Mass Media
  • Conversion and Politics

Anthropology Religious Conversion
by
Henri Gooren
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0146

Introduction

Religious conversion is a process that entails a change in religious affiliation, worldview, and identity. In turn, the conversion process dialectically establishes (and often changes) the very entities to which and from which people convert. Anthropologists came to study religious conversion relatively late, possibly because of its Christian connotations and anthropology’s complicated relationship with Christianity (see the Oxford Bibliographies article “Anthropology of Christianity”). The wider field of conversion studies is old, interdisciplinary, innovative, and dynamic. Three dominant themes in the anthropology of religious conversion are the connection between religious conversion and modernity, the consequences of conversion, and the emphasis of conversion either as a rupture with the past or stressing elements of continuity. Subsequent sections review conversion to different currents in Christianity (especially Catholicism and Pentecostalism), Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and New Religious Movements. Conversion to Atheism and Agnosticism provides an overview of conversion to atheism and agnosticism (see also Oxford Bibliographies article “Secularization”). Additional sections explore the connections between conversion and gender, language, markets, mass media, and politics. Included in this article is an overview of the main academic journals, publishing regularly on (the anthropology of) religious conversion.

Journals

The journals listed here regularly publish anthropological research on conversion; hence, some major journals are omitted. American Anthropologist is the official journal of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) professional organization and covers all four fields. American Ethnologist emphasizes in-depth ethnographic fieldwork with a special focus on its relevance to solve contemporary world problems. Exchange: Journal of Missiological and Ecumenical Research is an international journal, specialized in mission studies, ecumenism, world Christianity, and interreligious relations. The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion is the official journal of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the foremost interdisciplinary journal on religion. The Journal of Contemporary Religion is another interdisciplinary journal, focusing especially on new religions and theory. The Journal of Religion in Africa is the foremost interdisciplinary journal on religions in Africa. Missiology is the official journal of the American Society on Missiology, featuring anthropological research on conversion and mission with a Christian focus. Pastoral Psychology is an interdisciplinary journal focused on caring for, understanding, and exploring human beings as persons—in families, in small groups, and in communities. Religion is an interdisciplinary journal on religion published four times a year that frequently publishes (anthropological) work on conversion. Social Compass is the official interdisciplinary journal of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion published four times a year. Review of Religious Research and Sociology of Religion are the official interdisciplinary journals of the Religious Research Association and the Association for the Sociology of Religion.

  • American Anthropologist. 1888–.

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    Official journal of the American Anthropological Association, published four times a year. Reflects the US four-field approach and covers archaeology as well as biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology. Regularly publishes anthropological research on conversion.

  • American Ethnologist. 1974–.

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    Official journal of the American Ethnological Society published four times a year. Emphasizes in-depth ethnographic fieldwork and the social and political relevance of ethnography for addressing contemporary world problems. Frequently publishes ethnographic research on conversion.

  • Exchange: Journal of Missiological and Ecumenical Research. 1971–.

    E-mail Citation »

    International journal, specializing in the fields of missiology, ecumenism, world Christianity, and interreligious relations. Frequently publishes (anthropological) work on conversion and mission.

  • Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 1961–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Official journal of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion published four times a year. Foremost interdisciplinary journal on religion that frequently publishes research on conversion.

  • Journal of Contemporary Religion. 1985–.

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    Interdisciplinary journal published three times a year, often with a focus on new religions and theoretical issues. Frequently publishes (anthropological) work on conversion.

  • Journal of Religion in Africa. 1968–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Interdisciplinary journal published four times a year. Emphasizes all religious traditions throughout Africa, with particular attention to Christianity and Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. Frequently publishes anthropological work on conversion and on mission.

  • Missiology. 1972–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Official journal of the American Society of Missiology published four times a year. Christian-based publication that regularly features anthropological research on conversion and on mission.

  • Pastoral Psychology. 1950–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Interdisciplinary journal published six times a year. Offers original papers that discuss the work of caring for, understanding, and exploring human beings as persons—in families, in small groups, and in community. Often publishes on conversion.

  • Religion. 1993–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Interdisciplinary journal on religion published four times a year. Frequently publishes (anthropological) work on conversion.

  • Review of Religious Research. 1958–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Official journal of the Religious Research Association published four times a year. Interdisciplinary journal on religion that frequently publishes research on conversion.

  • Social Compass. 1953–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Official journal of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion published four times a year. Interdisciplinary journal on religion that frequently publishes (anthropological) work on conversion.

  • Sociology of Religion. 1992–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Formerly named Sociological Analysis (1963–1992) and American Catholic Sociological Review (1940–1963). Official journal of the Association for the Sociology of Religion published four times a year. Interdisciplinary journal on religion that frequently publishes research on conversion.

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