CfP: Religions, Special Issue: Religious Conversion in Africa

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Special Issue: Religious Conversion in Africa

Dear Colleagues,

This is a call for essays for a special issue of the peer-reviewed international journal Religions on the topic of religious conversion in Africa. Over the past decade, scholarly attention has focused on the “explosive” expansion of Pentecostalism across the African continent and its narrative of discontinuity with the pre-Pentecostal lives of Pentecostal adherents. This sophisticated research has demonstrated how the emic prioritization of rupture within the Pentecostal discourse of conversion was predicated on a desire to overcome the dysfunction and insecurity of life in neoliberal Africa.

The predominance of Pentecostal Christian practices and discourses within this literature has shaped recent investigations into conversion in three ways:

First, it has marginalized concurrent processes of religious change in Africa that do not necessarily conform to a discourse of rupture. These include, for example, the expansion of East Asian religions (e.g., Hinduism), the growth of new expressions of Christianity (e.g., Russian Orthodox Old Believers and Jehovah’s Witnesses), or the movement from one Christian denomination or tradition to another.

Second, the prioritization of rupture has meant that discussions about the role of cultural endurance and continuity in religious change have fallen largely out of fashion. There are material and psychological realities, however, such as abiding social relations with half-siblings from a polygamous marriage or the language(s) one speaks, that cannot be wished into oblivion following conversion.

Third, even as recent literature on conversion in Africa has reinvigorated scholarly inquiries into the phenomenon of conversion and religious change, it often reproduces older theories’ assumptions about the direction of religious conversion, from “traditional religions” to “world religions”. As a result, developments such as the reemergence of African indigenous religions through the advent of spiritual tourism and their spread throughout diasporic communities (e.g., Vodún in Benin, and Orisa in the Americas) are undertheorized with respect to conversion.

In light of these observations, we invite essays from any historical era, methodological approach, and theoretical framework that seek to make original contributions with respect to conversion and religious change in Africa. We especially welcome essays that interrogate issues of method with respect to source material, offer critical assessments of theories of conversion with respect to religious change in Africa, and are based in contexts beyond Christianity and/or Pentecostalism.

Authors who are interested in submitting an essay to this special issue should send a 250-word abstract of his/her/their paper to the guest editors at and by 1 September 2019. Notification of accepted proposals will occur by 1 October 2019. Final manuscripts will be due on 1 April 2020. All essays will be peer reviewed.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email the guest editors.

For more information, please visit:


Jason Bruner

David Dmitri Hurlbut

Guest Editors