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 towards 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.

For further information about this project please contact Simon Goldhill at CRASSH.

The Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies is hosted by the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI) at McGill University and funded by a Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canada.

Conversion Fellowships

CRASSH appoints two visiting fellows, each for a term, to research the topic of conversion in the Early Modern period. The two fellows work on a project connected to the theme of conversion, and contribute to the interdisciplinary, collaborative international project Early Modern Conversions: Religions, Cultures, Cognitive Ecologies by participating in the events of the network sponsored by CRASSH. They also contribute to the interdisciplinary work of CRASSH through participation in its work in progress seminar. This Fellowship will not be continued after 2017-18.

Lent 2018
Dr Charlotte-Rose Millar (University of Queensland)
Dr Miriana Carbonara (University of East Anglia)

Michaelmas 2016
Dr Jennifer Rampling (Princeton)

Easter 2017
Dr Alison Searle (University of Sydney/University of Leeds)

Michaelmas 2015
Dr Suparna Roychoudhury (Mount Holyoke College)

Lent 2016
Professor Marie-Élise Zovko (Institute of Philosophy, Zagreb)

Michaelmas 2014
Dr Eoin Devlin (University of Cambridge)

Lent 2015
Professor Torrance Kirby  (McGill University)


11-12 April 2014
Sound in the Early Modern City

June-July 2015
CRASSH will host a series of workshops attended by early career scholars from McGill University in Montreal.


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk