Making a Difference: The Political Life of Religious Conversion

Michal Kravel-Tovi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This article reviews the anthropological scholarship that engages with religious conversion as a political phenomenon, broadly defined. It develops the idea of making a difference as an overarching framework with a double meaning. First, this idiom captures how, by framing religious conversion in political terms, anthropologists have claimed to have substantially intervened-have made a difference, so to speak-in the discussion of conversion. Second, the article sets aside the prevalent problematization of conversion as a category of change, showing instead how anthropologists have sought to establish how religious change makes a difference-in the interweaved realities of individuals, collectives, and polities. I scrutinize and contextualize the belated consolidation of this area of inquiry, map its major strands, and identify the interrelated theoretical developments within anthropology. Seeing these strands as a generative domain of inquiry, I conclude with a number of suggestions for future research, such as paying closer attention to political conversions and to the links between religious conversion and political crises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - 23 Oct 2023


  • change
  • political difference
  • politics of religion
  • religious conversion
  • religious difference


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