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Early Modern Conversions Project

Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies is a new, multi-disciplinary project with sites for research at universities around the world. U-M is one of the funded sites for primary research. A grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRH) of Canada will provide the primary funding for the five-year project, including support for graduate student research. McGill University in Montreal is the home of the project, which will be directed by Professor Paul Yachnin.

The goal of Early Modern Conversions will be to rethink early modern Europe as an “Age of Conversion.” We seek to develop an historical understanding of conversion that will address corporeal, sexual, epistemological, psychological, trans-human, political, and spiritual kinds of transformation. Among the topics we want to explore are the ways in which early modern Europeans changed their confessional, social, political, gender, and sexual identities; the geo-political reorientation of Europe in light of changing or emerging relations with Islam and the Americas; the rethinking and the translation of Greek and Latin Antiquity; the rethinking and transformations of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; changes in and changing uses of the built environment, including the growth of cities and nation states; the development of science and technology; and of course, the reimagining of God. We will be thinking in terms of ecologies rather than epistemes.

Steven Mullaney (English) and Valerie Traub (English and Women's Studies) are co-participants in Conversions. George Hoffmann (French) and Hussein Fancy (History) are collaborating participants and have agreed to serve on the steering committee.

The Institute for the Humanities will serve as a full partner in the program. Its director, Professor Sidonie Smith, serves on the project advisory board. The institute has offered to provide generous funding for our on-campus activities, including a “Conversions” graduate student fellowship that will be offered in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Students from all disciplines and periods are welcome to apply. The institute will also host two major events in 2016, the Summer Seminar for Younger Scholars (to be conducted by Mullaney and Yachnin) and the annual Early Modern Conversions Symposium.

Watch for future announcements of events, activities, and meetings. Detailed information for graduate students will be available soon. See the Conversions website at for more information. LSA, the Department of English, and the Early Modern Consortium have extended their support. We would like to thank them and also to thank the Institute for the Humanities for its generous support and partnership.