This is the Year of Conversions
From large-scale social shifts to religious awakenings, from print-to-digital translations to gender transitions, from cultural appropriation to climate change, stories of conversion speak to the fascination and anxiety that we experience during moments of transformation—moments that, even when they have a clear before and after, often refuse to yield any certainty or finality about the conversions or their outcomes.
For individuals, a conversion can mean taking control, exerting one’s will to change ourselves, our lives, or our world; but that agency can be unsettling, even illusory. For groups, societies, and civilizations, conversions can materialize across assemblages, joining material, technological, ideological, and human dynamics and interests with such complexity that we are confounded in attempts to theorize or understand the processes and outcomes of conversions.
Over the course of the 2015-2016 Year of Conversions, the Institute for the Humanities will explore conversions of all kinds from a diversity of perspectives with the goal of deepening our understanding of the long histories of conversions and enlightening debates about the effects of conversions on the ever-transforming present.