Week 1- Introduction to the world of conversion
This session introduces you to two fundamental issues for understanding the concept of religious conversion.
Week 2- Individual conversion
You will meet individuals who chose to change their own belief, religious orientation and community, and discuss the characteristics of their conversion. Do individual converts from different geographical zones and historical periods have anything in common?
Week 3- Women’s conversion
Can women’s conversions be specifically characterized? If so, why, and in what ways, do their conversions differ from those of men?
Week 4- Between religions
What is the new identity of the convert? Does the individual move completely from one social world to another, from one set of religious beliefs and norms to a different one?
Week 5- Conversion and myth
Some conversion stories became myths. What role do these myths play in societies’ education of its own members? How did these myths function as a missionary tool for other conversions?
Week 6- Conversion and polemics
Religious conversion is not a neutral matter. Throughout history, it has raised sharp disagreement between representatives of the three main monotheistic religions, each of which has tried to prove itself to be the “true religion”. What kind of arguments did they use? Who was affected by these arguments?
Week 7- Mass conversion
Mass conversions have dramatically influenced the demography of the world. What are the dynamics that can lead millions to change their faith? What are the starting points of this process? What is the role of force in this process?
Week 8- Forced conversion
Most conversions in history were forced upon societies and individuals by conquerors and rulers. How have minorities responded to conversion that was imposed by the dominant majority? How did their new status shift the borders of community belonging?
Week 9- Conversion and society
We will focus on the twilight status of the convert: What kind of social and economic reasons have led individuals to convert? How does the act of conversion shape the relationship between converts and their social surrounding?
Week 10- Conclusion
A review of the different types of conversion we explore in the course and their connections to identity, self-definition, relations between individuals and their social surrounding, the power balance between majorities and minorities, and the way social groups define their own boundaries.