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300143 Religious Conversion and Radicalism: Anthropolgical Perspectives (S) (WiSe 2016/2017)

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In our contemporary world, heightened numbers of people join religious communities or rediscover their ancestral faith as something that demands a full change in lifestyle. Different strands of the Christian faith have made massive inroads into societies where, half a century ago, they were of little importance, and Islamic groups that demand a commitment to their particular scriptural reading are quite successful proselytizing among the Muslim youth. At the same time, religious zeal poses a threat to peace and political stability in many parts of the world.

Religious conversion does mostly not lead to radicalism, and faith-based political radicalism does not always depend on converting neophytes to a creed that they did not share before. Religious conversion and faith-based political radicalization are two distinct phenomena that we will discuss in the context of each other to to think about questions such as: What are the commonalities and recurring motifs in the biographies of people who change their lives to live their faith? What role do specific genres of verbal interaction, such as conversion narratives and witnessing, play in different forms of religious conversion and radicalization? What are the social dimensions of these phenomena, which we tend to see as rooted in individual decisions?

We will approach these questions from a social anthropological perspective, which means that ethnographic case studies, comparative qualitative material and theoretical insights found by looking at societies other than “our own” (whatever that means) will play a significant role. To foster inspiring classroom discussions, participants will be expected to keep up with moderate amounts of weekly readings in the English language.

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