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Michael Saurer (Alumnus BGSMCS)

Initiation, Segregation and Negotiation as Key Factors in Coversion Processes between Christians and Muslims in Southwest-Uganda.

Initiation, Segregation and Negotiation as Key Factors in Conversion ProcessesBetween Christians and Muslims in Southwest-Uganda

In recent years a vast number of anthropological studies about religious dynamics in sub-saharan Africa have been published. While many of these works deal with conversion processes they often lack a systematic definition of the term “conversion” in general.

On the other hand sociological and psychological approaches often try to explain the phenomenon through rigid models which rarely stand up to the complex nature of the process.

This study tries to build a bridge between these approaches and defines conversion as interplay of initiation, segregation and negotiation processes.

The initiation describes the way towards the new religion and consists of various rites which have to be implemented in order to become an accepted member of the new community. These include physical and performative procedures like circumcision, baptism, clothes etc. as well as linguistic ones (certain formulas, specific phrases etc.).

While the convert becomes introduced to the new community he also becomes moulded by new rules, doctrines and taboos. These new boundaries become contested when they impinge upon the converts’ old networks and therefore negotiation processes about them might occur. While some of these negotiations lead to conflicts and in the worst case to a permanent break with parts of the former networks others might lead to a status quo and a consolidation both parties can accept. In both cases a transformation of the social networks will occur.

This project is based on an eight-month field research in 2010 in the former Ankole kingdom in south-western Uganda in which two religious institutions had been examined: a Muslim conversion centre, in which through a several weeks program new Muslims are introduced into Islam, and a Pentecostal church, in which several former Muslims became engaged. So the cases of conversion to Islam as well as the conversion from Islam to the Pentecostal church are in the focus of this work and light up the general standing and self-perception of Islam in Uganda, where it constitutes a minority which was often faced by deliberate marginalization in the past.

Through participant observation and qualitative interviews with both the converts and their families the transformation of the networks, the upcoming negotiations and the reception in the new community had been observed and will be documented in the dissertation.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Roman Loimeier

Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ute Luig