This, the first in a series of workshops, is devoted to the theme of ‘The Early Modern City as the Site of Conversion’, and will take place in King's College, Cambridge on 10-11 April 2014. A small number of bursaries are available to enable doctoral students to attend; these will cover reasonable travel expenses, accommodation and subsistence costs. Those wishing to apply should send a short CV together with a brief description of their current research project and its relevance to the theme of the Workshop to Iain Fenlon, King’s College, Cambridge, CB2 1ST. The deadline for applications is 15 March 2014.
Whether it is an awakening to a new faith, an induction into a religious cult or radical political movement, a sexual transformation, or the re-engineering of human beings as bio-mechanical “cyborgs,” conversion is a source of fascination, a promise of newness, and a focus of anxiety for people in the twenty-first century. We do not know if such conversions are inward turnings toward a better life or monstrous impositions upon unwitting victims. We cannot fathom how individuals or groups of people are able to convert to a new politics, religion, or way of life all at once and quite completely, as if they had never been other than what they have become. We would not want to part with the freedom of self- determination embodied in conversion, which seems to be its purest expression, even though we are troubled by what radical transformations tell us about the instability and changeability of human beings.
Among other goals, the Forms of Conversion project will develop an historical understanding of conversion that will enlighten modern debates about corporeal, sexual, psychological, political and spiritual kinds of transformation. The project will study how early modern Europeans changed their confessional, social, political, and even sexual identities. These subjective changes were of a piece with transformations in their world—the geopolitical reorientation of Europe in light of emerging relations with Islam and the Americas; the rethinking and the translation of the knowledge of Greek and Latin Antiquity, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; changes in and changing uses of the built environment; the reimagining of God.
This workshop is part of the CRASSH five year project, Forms of Conversion, in a partnership led by McGill University, including researchers from universities in Canada, the USA, Australia, and England as well as leading centres for the humanities and/or early modern studies, and four of Canada’s top-ranked performing arts organizations.
For further information about this project please contact Simon Goldhill at CRASSH.