The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters was recently established at Ben-Gurion University in collaboration with the Hebrew University, the Open University, Bar Ilan University and the University of Haifa. Its goal is to provide an analytical framework for examining conversion over long periods of time and between different geographical settings in the context of politics, society, religion, law, science and cultural life.
Over the coming years the Center will work on the creation of a database which will attempt to record every known act of conversion from one religion to another in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. The database will give as much biographical information available, including places of conversion, dates (or approximate date), ages of converts, motives for conversion, describe the processes as recorded in the sources, former and present religions, careers and professional statuses before and after conversion, familial ties and connections with other converts, reactions to the conversion, list the works written by the converts and works that refer to the converts, languages used by the converts and provide a bibliography of all the available primary and secondary sources. The data collected by members of the Center with the active cooperation of an international group of scholars will be digitalized and made available for anyone interested. The end result will be a powerful fully searchable online reference tool which can then be used by scholars to compare and relate to a wide range of issues dealing with conversion.
Call for Papers
The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters is announcing its first four-day annual conference on the theme of Texts of Conversion to be held at Ben-Gurion University from the 26th-29th May 2014. The first aim of the conference is to explore the broad range of available literary sources in which relevant information about converts can be found and discuss the methodology for extracting such information and analyzing it. Scholars of all disciplines, interests, geographic and chronological focuses are invited to propose papers which will shed light on the extant data and propose methodological strategies for its accumulation and analysis. Sessions might include, but are not limited to, such topics as:
Law and conversion: courts records, regulations, and legal opinions
Religious and Secular Governance: decrees, official records,
Narrative and conversion: historiography, hagiography, biography, poetry
Intellectual and cultural brokerage: convert-authored scientific and educational treatises, poetry, and fiction
Theology: debates, exegesis, polemics, and apologetics
Archeology: tombs, dedications, houses of worship
Psychological, linguistic and semiotic analysis of conversion texts
We especially welcome papers that address related texts from the Medieval and Early Modern periods, but also welcome proposals dealing with Antiquity and the Modern Era which bear relevance to the theme of the conference.
The second aim of the conference is to showcase the proposed database and prepare the ground for international cooperation on inputting relevant data. Participants are requested to prepare materials relevant to one or more converts (or an example of mass conversion) according to the parameters of the database set out above. We will study these test cases together, input the materials, and attempt to deal with the problems that arise, thereby creating a protocol for the database and ironing out the difficulties.
Call for papers is closed!