​​​The Center for the Study of Conversion

and Inter-Religious Encounters (CSoC)

Religion has been and remains a predominant aspect of human experience and social practice, nation formation and factionalism, international relations, global security, spirituality and artistic expression. Ignorance of the religious belief and history of others is a major cause of strife and violence in our world. Understanding the role of religion in changing historical, cultural and material contexts is an intellectual challenge which demands collaborative interdisciplinary research. CSoC creates the opportunity for such research by bringing together faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students into a vibrant and devoted community of scholars. It promotes creative academic scholarship and public discussion about the three Abrahamic religions and relations between them at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and impacts the field worldwide.

CSoC was founded by Prof. Haim Hames in 2012 as an inter-university I-CORE (Israeli Centers of Research Excellence) project. In 2018, CSoC became a BGU center in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and has since been led by Prof. Effie Shoham-Steiner, with a steering committee of seven senior faculty members. Currently, Prof. Daniella Talmon-Heller serves as director. Each academic year highlights a particular theme within the study of religion. The Center supports a cohort of promising younger fellows – outstanding postdoc and PhD candidates – whose research relates to this theme. The center holds weekly seminars and reading groups, multiple book events, international workshops and field trips. It has invited guest lectures and research fellows from leading universities worldwide. Within BGU, the center's seminars and conferences serve as a hub for the many scholars and graduate students who are interested in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and continues to draw in former-fellows, scholars from other institutions and guests from the community.

The center is proud to have nurtured 20 postdoctoral Israeli and international fellows and 10 PhD candidates, not only with stipends, but also with an intellectually stimulating atmosphere and opportunities for academic entrepreneurship and international collaborations. Some of our fellows have already achieved tenure track position (Hebrew U), fellowships in prestigious post-doctoral programs (at Harvard, Yale and Penn.), nominations for prestigious awards and the publication of articles and monographs in leading academic presses.

In 2020-2021, CSoC's seminars were devoted to examining a wide range of issues related to materiality in the three Abrahamic Religions. Due to Covid constraints, most meetings were held on zoom, an arrangement that enabled the invitation of world-renowned scholars from afar and the participation of wider audiences. The Center hosted two successful international virtual conferences, in collaboration with the Department of Middle East Studies at BGU and with the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University, and six international book launches. Next year's program – Rethinking Center and Periphery - will also include workshops on writing, outreach to the public via BGU's External Studies programs and exchanges with Fordham University NYC, and Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz.

For all CSoC activities, see: https://www.facebook.com/BGU.CSOC

Contact us via rayaed@bgu.ac.il, talmond@bgu.ac.il