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The Complexity of Conversion

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Today, conversion is a contested religious, political, and personal phenomenon, and that was also the case in the ancient world. Using several primary sources (Jewish and Christian) and case studies, this volume discusses what this change could have meant for various individuals or groups of people in the ancient world and argues that conversion can best be understood through an intersectional perspective, an approach that includes gender, class, ethnicity, and age, as well as political and economic elements in its analysis of conversion.

The volume also acknowledges that a discussion of conversion benefits from taking into account conversion’s history of reception. Case studies from the reception history as well as contemporary examples of contested conversions (for example, from Christianity to Islam or vice versa) are also brought to the table.

In sum, the book addresses the complexity of conversion, using a range of cases, texts and theories, and initiates a dialogue between ancient sources and present concepts or practices. Close readings of ancient texts play a central role in the project. Yet, the book also considers how sacred texts and their receptions have influenced the way we generally think about conversion as religious change.

Published: Oct 6, 2021


Section Chapter Authors
Chapter 1
What Is So Complex About "Conversion"? Marianne Kartzow, Valérie Nicolet
Chapter 2
Shedding Religious Skin: An Intersectional Analysis of the Claim that Male Circumcision Limits Religious Freedom Karin Neutel
Chapter 3
Complex Interactions: Conversion and Interreligious Dialogue in the Norwegian Context Anne-Hege Grung
Chapter 4
Conversion in Mystery Religions? Theory Meets Mysteries and Conversion Gerhard Van Den Heever
Chapter 5
"Leap, Ye, Lame for Joy": The Dynamics of Disability in Conversion Anna Solevag
Chapter 6
Reading a Complex Identity in Conversion: Interpretations of the Ethiopian Eunuch Minna Heimola
Chapter 7
Creating a New Sex: Women Bodies in Conversion Valérie Nicolet
Chapter 8
Conversion in/to the Wilderness: The Case of the Egyptian Slave Girl Hagar in Early Christian and Jewish Texts Marianne Kartzow
Chapter 9
The Complexity of Aseneth's Transformation Kirsten Hartvigsen
Chapter 10
Leaving the Traditions of the Fathers: Perspectives on Conversion from a Christianity That Did Not Survive Kristine Rosland
Chapter 11
Spatial Conversion and Christian Identity in Late Antiquity Anna Lampadaridi
Chapter 12
Concluding Remarks Valérie Nicolet
End Matter
Index of References Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, Valérie Nicolet
Index of Modern Authors Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, Valérie Nicolet
Index of Subjects Marianne Bjelland Kartzow, Valérie Nicolet


Offers something new and worthwhile to scholarship on conversion in antiquity.
Matthew Thiessen, McMaster University

Makes a significant contribution not only to the discussion of ancient conversion experiences but also to the discursive framework in which we as modern scholars try to understand those experiences.
Zeba A. Crook, Carleton University

This book offers a broader understanding of conversion as well as new terms, such as "religious change" and "multiple affiliation". Far from denying the existence of the phenomenon of conversion in the ancient world, this book shows its various aspects, employing the notions of inclusion and exclusion. The phenomena of conversion are linked to mechanisms that create "insiders" and "outsiders". The authors of this volume show that these mechanisms, then as now, are not only controlled by personal by personal choices, but are also linked to complex realities that involve cultural, social, economic and ethnic affiliations.
Études théologiques et religieuses

The volume offers variety and is a valuable read for anyone working with theories of conversion and identity.
Catholic Biblical Quarterly