Anthropology of Religious Conversion

Henri Gooren

in The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion

Published in print April 2014 | ISBN: 9780195338522
Published online May 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Anthropology of Religious Conversion

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This chapter analyzes important approaches in anthropology that have dealt with religious change. The central question is how anthropologists identify and analyze the main factors in the conversion process. The chapter deals with the approaches in chronological order, describing their main authors and ideas, their conceptualization of religious conversion, and their methodologies. The main conclusion is that anthropologists have struggled to come to terms with religious conversion, but currently they are improving quickly. Most anthropologists have criticized modernity but have been unable to escape its gravitational pull. Another challenge for the future is developing comparative approaches to conversion to a host of religions in ways that include the indigenous understandings of the religions and explore their interactions with globalization processes. Anthropologists should capitalize on the main strengths of their discipline: their long-term perspective, their ethnographic approach, their theoretical flexibility, and their focus on the cultural context in understanding conversion cross-culturally.

Keywords: anthropology; revitalization movements; mission; testimony; world religions; Christianity; Pentecostalism; Roman Catholicism; Islam

Article.  14802 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Sociology of Religion

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