The Kronstadt Moment/The Road to Damascus
An Interdisciplinary Conference on Conversion and Disenchantment
April 26th and 27th, The New School for Social Research, NY.
In the seminal collection of essays The God that Failed, Louis Fisher recounts the story of anarchist Alexander Berkman, who recalls the specific moment when he became an avowed enemy of the Bolsheviks – the bloody rebellion on the island of Kronstadt. For Berkman, this specific event defined the crisis point of his ideological faith; it was the moment of disenchantment, of a kind of “de-conversion”. Fisher appropriates this term to define his own moment of realization noting that “I had no ‘Kronstadt’ for many years”.
Such moments of “de-conversion”, or disenchantment, juxtapose a recurring trope in Western thought—that of conversion itself. Traditionally, these are moments of religious revelation and/or transformation, as with Paul on the road to Damascus, but there are moments of scientific transformation, as well. In the well-known myth of Archimedes in his bath, the “Eureka” moment of inspiration could be said to be the source of a ‘universal conversion’ of thought, or a complete paradigm shift. The perpetuation of such myths over the centuries has defined our understanding of what conversion and disillusionment are, how they function, and what mystery or power such experiences hold.
This persistence begs the questions of whether the allegory of conversion itself prepares certain individuals for this experience? And, on the contrary, for its reversal? Are we, in the Western world, socially predisposed to codify an experience in an allegorical manner?
In the past century, how has conversion/disenchantment made itself manifest through secular movements? Through contemporary religious groups?
This conference will seek to address the topic of conversion and disenchantment from a variety of academic disciplines, and we encourage submissions from researchers and graduate students in all fields. Some suggested topics include, but are of course not limited to:
· The perpetuation of the ‘transformative journey’ conversion allegory in Western history
· Neuro-scientific research pertaining to conversion/de-conversion
· The Bielefeld based cross-cultural study on de-conversion in the US and Germany
· Rousseau on the road to Vincennes
· Biographical inquiries of conversion/disenchantment
· Conversion with Judaism: from Conservative to Haredi
· Conversion and the politics of religion in early modern Germany
· Questioning the concept of conversion as a ‘gain’, and de-conversion as a ‘loss’.
· The role that nature plays in the classic conversion allegory
· Secular conversion/anti-conversion in the 20th century, the so-called “Faith of the Faithless”?
· Psychological studies pertaining to conversion
· Possible abdication of responsibility in conversion/disenchantment – the power of an ‘outside force’
· Augustine’s conversion as recounted in The Confessions
· Conversion and ritual
· What problems does ‘reverse-conversion’, or loss of faith, pose for the member of a contemporary sect?
· Conversion and ‘de-conversion’ relating to political movements, particularly Communism.
· What barriers do groups of the ‘converted’, whether religious or political, erect to hinder disenchantment or “reverse-conversion”?
· Descartes’ conversion to science as recounted in the Discourse on Method
· An investigation of conversion metaphors in literature
· Beyond the individual – Max Weber and the “disenchantment of the world”
Simon Critchley (NSSR), Thomas Macho (Humboldt, Berlin), Dr. Simon Dein (UC London), James Miller (NSSR)
Call for Papers:
Proposals of 350 words of less and a short biography are due by March 1st to firstname.lastname@example.org. Group presentations welcome! Please indicate if you have any multi-media needs.