One of the most striking developments in the history of modern civilizations has been the conversion of tribal peoples to more expansively organized "world" religions. There is little scholarly consensus as to why these religions have endured and why conversion to them has been so widespread. These essays explore the phenomenon of Christian conversion from this world-building perspective. Combining rich case studies with original theoretical insights, this work challenges sociologists, anthropologists and historians of religion to reassess the varieties of religious experience and the convergent processes involved in religious change.
Robert W. Hefner, Introduction
Howard Clark Kee on the Early Church
Terence Ranger on Southern Africa
Robert W. Hefner on Java
William L. Merrill on Mexico
Donald K. Pollock on Amazonia
John Barker on Papua, New Guinea
Aram A. Yengoyan on Australia
Charles F. Keyes on Thailand
David K. Jordan on China
Peter Wood, Afterword
Robert W. Hefner is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University.
"Contributes as much to advancing contemporary social theory as it does to understanding conversion."—Dale Eickelman, Dartmouth College
"These rich and rewarding essays problematize a process central to Western notions of the making of modernity—the reformation of peripheral worlds under the impact of global religions. [The authors] challenge established disciplinary boundaries, providing sensitive accounts of the interplay of world-transforming movements and accounts of specific cultures and histories. In doing so, they cause us to rethink the ethnocentric, developmentalist assumptions often built into the very notion of "conversion" itself as a concept in our own scholarly tradition."—Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago
One of the "Fifiteen Outstanding Book of 1993 for Mission Studies", Overseas Ministries Study Center