Tom Fricke (Survey Research Center & Population Studies Center, Anthropology Department)
03/23/2009, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.
In the models of demographic and other social transitions, ideational change is taken as both dependent and independent variable. One powerful indicator of such change is religious conversion, itself taken by most social observers as implying a profound cultural rupture. In this presentation I discuss conversion to Christianity among a formerly Buddhist people of Nepal I have studied since 1981. Where my previous work focused on demographic and family transitions, here I focus on the micro-processes and contexts of conversion. I want to suggest that such conversions may be motivated, at least at the outset, by the preservation of key cultural attitudes and understandings. This has implications for how we understand the "religion" as an index of change and how we might want to think about ways of more accurately measuring cultural shifts at the individual level. A background paper for the talk is available.