Gender and Conversion

Conference poster

We’re looking forward to our two-day symposium on Thursday and Friday this coming week (26th and 27th July). The event is bringing together some fantastic scholars, who have already circulated drafts of their papers, so we can discuss in detail the varied ideas, research, and methodologies through which each participant is addressing the theme of Gender and Conversion.

With a few notable exceptions, little of the current scholarship on conversion pays explicit attention to the ways in which changing faith might also involve a shift in gendered identity, as ideas of appropriate manhood or womanhood are transformed across cultures, and as different ways of expressing and understanding devotion ask men and women to think about themselves in new, and sometimes unsettling, ways. For some women and men, conversion could allow certain kinds of freedom — not least, as Eric Dursteler reminds us, the freedom to divorce a husband or wife who refused to embrace the convert’s new faith. For others, conversion (quite literally in the act of entering a convent) meant that religious and sexed identity informed each other in complex ways.

An important strand of the papers will ask how race and gender came together in people’s thinking about encounters with other countries and religions; another will investigate how families were restructured or divided by change in religion. Participants will also ask how both the built and crafted environment contributed to the experience of conversion, and the kinds of expression and experience available to men and women in both institutional and domestic contexts.

For full details of the conference and programme, take a look at the relevant page on our project website. It’s going to be fun…


Beermat with Calvinus logo

On a recent trip to the SAMEMES conference in Lausanne, I was delighted to be introduced to Calvinus: the drink which allows Les Frêres Papinot of Geneva to keep the traditions of Calvin alive through brewing. According to the back of my bottle (at least according to my inexpert translation), throughout 1563, Calvin used to cloister himself in his house for long hours, and the strange odours which emerged left his enemies convinced he was practising alchemy. But no! With the help of an old Trappist convert, Calvin was brewing delicious and health-giving beer, though its effects may not have been quite as medicinal as he hoped, as he died soon after, in 1564 (I’m not sure how to translate ‘crise de bile’, but it sounds painful). Now, you too can drink like Calvin, as Les Frêres Papinot have traced his researches and practices to produce some delicate and delicious beers (as I can happily attest).