Locating the Self, Negotiating the Other: Imperial Expansion and Conversion in the Early Modern Period

Locating the Self, Negotiating the Other: Imperial Expansion and Conversion in the Early Modern Period

Prof. Dr. Ricarda Vulpius, Nikolas Ender MLitt (Department of Eastern European History at the University of Münster)
Findet statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
05.10.2023 - 07.10.2023
Nikolas Ender, Department of Eastern European History, University of Münster

The Department of Eastern European History at the University of Münster organizes a conference on conversions in early modern empires and encourages both emerging and established scholars to apply.

Date: 5-7 October 2023

Proposal submission deadline: April 30 2023

Locating the Self, Negotiating the Other: Imperial Expansion and Conversion in the Early Modern Period

Conversion and imperial expansion often coincided. Sacred places of the former dominant religion were destroyed or transformed and provided with symbols of the new religion. Objects of the material world of the old faith were alienated from their original purpose, desecrated and refashioned for the liturgy of the new faith. Existing discourses and rituals were adapted to the belief system of the new religion. New spaces were established and participation in the religious life of the new community was controlled and regulated. However, converts not infrequently applied the knowledge of the landscapes they inhabited to their own ends. They decided how to tackle the changes imposed on them by imperial authorities. They could break away from the culture of their previous religious community or resist the new norms. But regardless of whether converts turned to the new religion or found ways to continue practicing their old faith imperial intervention often resulted in inevitable religious transformation. These transformations initiated gradual processes that could shift into different directions.
Recent research has focused on the multidirectionality of the conversion process. The four terms—acculturation, proselytism, hybridization and transformation—are used to refer to possible directions that this process could take after the formal ritual conversion into the new faith community. They range from subordination into the social structure of the empire to the blending of elements of the old and new religions. The circumstances under which one of these directions was taken, however, are far less explored. What were the spatial manifestations of the converts who rejected the new religion? How did local discourses within the communities of new converts relate to attempts to resist imperial orders? How did the spread of religious knowledge across imperial boundaries shape the process of conversion?
The planned conference seeks to bring together emerging and established researchers focusing on such contexts of conversions - discourses, networks, spaces. Contributions examining the rite of passage are welcome alongside those that focus on conversion as a longer process. As particular appeal of the conference is the ability to compare these topics across empires, considering overseas as well as continental empires. Although the conference is generally framed for research specializing in the early modern period (with an emphasis on the 17th and 18th centuries), contributions from other periods are also welcome.
The main objectives of the conference are to bring together recent research on conversions and the lives of converts in different empires, to elaborate on commonalities as well as peculiarities and, in doing so, examine possible global conjunctures of conversion processes in the process. New insights are expected on how imperial politics dealt with conversions as well as on the individual and collective self-positioning of converts in imperial contexts.

Contributions to be presented could deal with these and other topics:
- Conversion and space: Where did new spatial structures emerge through conversion? How did the landscapes inhabited by converts change in the course of the conversion process? How did imperial elites control space as to underpin (or dissolve) concepts of belonging?
- Networks of conversion: What relationships did converts have to other members of their ethnicity who had not converted?
- Colonial structures and conversion: What defines the relationship between colonial structures and conversion processes?
- Material worlds of conversion: How did transformations of material cultures mirror the direction of conversions?
- Conversion and resistance: Under which circumstances did converts resist imperial rule?
- Media and conversion: What role did printing, writing and the oral dissemination of religious knowledge play in the longer-term conversion process?
- Conjunctures of conversion: How did periods of (dis)continuity alternate?
- Narratives of conversion: What narratives did ethnic groups elaborate about those adhering to the old faith, imperial figures and those converting to the new religion?
- Micro-historical dynamics of conversion: How did the conversion process perpetuate itself in everyday life?
- Conversion and horizontal interdependence: How did groups of converts across imperial peripheries relate?
- Conversion and vertical entanglement: What characterizes the negotiation of religious, economic and political matters between converts and imperial elites?

Proposal submission deadline: April 30, 2023
Date: 5-7 October 2023
Location: University of Münster (Germany)
Conference language: English

We kindly ask potential contributors to submit a proposal of no more than two pages and a short CV (of one page maximum) in a single PDF document by April 30 to Irina Rempel (irempel2@uni-muenster.de) inserting "Converts in the Early Modern Empire - Conference Contribution" in the subject line. We encourage both emerging and established scholars to apply.

There is limited funding for travel expenses. Food and accommodation will be provided at the IDP-Liudgerhaus in Münster.

Participants will be notified by May 17, 2023.


Nikolas Ender (nender@uni-muenster.de), Ricarda Vulpius (ricarda.vulpius@uni-muenster.de)