The sociology of conversion narratives: A conundrum, a theory, and an opportunity

Andrew McKinnon* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Using Paul Ricoeur’s theory of narrative to consider Lofland and Stark’s classic ‘Becoming a World-Saver’, I address a fundamental conundrum in the sociology of conversion. If the conversion story is told in the new light of the new discourse –brought about by the conversion—how can the sociologist use it to explain the conversion and the factors that led to it? We consider the extent to which the sociology of religion has conflated the necessary elements of narrative structure for the stages of conversion. Taking into consideration more recent research, the paper makes a case for careful and comparative sociological study of conversion narratives—considered as narrative accounts. I argue that doing so further opens up avenues for research, particularly if we consider the audiences for whom the stories are told and the purposes the stories serve, and a ultimately constitutes a sound basis for considering the processes of conversion themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-105
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contemporary Religion
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Religious Conversion
  • narrative
  • ricouer
  • accounts
  • sociology


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