New approaches to ‘converts’ and ‘conversion’ in Africa: An introduction to the special issue

Jason Bruner, David Dmitri Hurlbut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It is our goal in this special issue on “Religious Conversion in Africa” to examine the limitations of a long-standing bias toward Christianity with respect to the study of “conversion.” Furthermore, we want to use this issue to prime other scholarly approaches to cultural change on the continent, beginning as early as the medieval period, including the colonial and early postcolonial eras, and extending to the contemporary. There are several reasons for making these interventions. One is the emergence of the anthropology of Christianity as a scholarly literature and sub-discipline. This literature has often focused on issues of religious change in relation to its own predilection for charismatic and Pentecostal expressions of Christianity and the distinct characteristics of cultural discontinuity within those communities. Another reason for this special issue on religious “conversion” in Africa is the relative lack of studies that engage with religious change beyond Pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical Protestant contexts. As such, studies on the “conversion” of Ahmadi in West Africa, medieval Ethiopian women, Mormons in twentieth-century southeastern Nigeria, and Orthodox Christians in Uganda are included, as is a fascinating case of what it means to “trod the path” of Rastafari in Ghana. Taken together, these contributions suggest new and important paths forward with respect to “conversion,” including critiquing and perhaps even discarding the term in certain contexts. Ultimately, we want these articles to illuminate the many ways that Africans across the continent have engaged (and continue to engage) with beliefs, practices, ideas, and communities—including the changes they make in their own lives and in the lives of those communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number389
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Africa
  • Africana religions
  • Anthropology of Christianity
  • Conversion
  • Historiography
  • History

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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