Séminaires et manifestations scientifiques | Actualités du Centre



7 juin 2022 - 09 h 15 à 18 h 00 - Centre de colloques Salle 100 - Campus Condorcet - Aubervilliers

Le 17 juin, le Centre d'études interdisciplinaires sur le bouddhisme (CEIB - Inalco, EPHE et Collège de France) organise un colloque sur la conversion dans les contextes bouddhistes.

 The notion of conversion has figured perhaps most prominently in scholarship on Christianity and Islam. It has been an occasion for anthropologists and others to reflect for instance on the possibility of radical life changes (Robbins 2007). The notion of conversion is by no means absent in studies of Buddhist contexts. The approaches have been very diverse in terms of disciplines, questions asked, and conceptualizations of conversion.

Historical accounts of the spread of Buddhism across Asia have made use of the notion in a somewhat specific sense, focusing on entire peoples’ or sociopolitical elites’ conversion to Buddhism, based notably on textual historical narratives (e.g., Zürcher 2007 [1972], Kapstein 2000) more than individual accounts of conversion. The more recent spread of Buddhism to the West and across the world has led to more ethnographically informed studies that have complicated the notion of conversion, by typologizing processes of religious diffusion and establishment in new lands as well as looking at shades of religious adhesion (e.g., Obadia 2007, Hickey 2010). Within Asia itself, where religious plurality is widespread, typologizing “conversion” and reflecting on the limits of the concept have also been explored, for instance with regard to the evolving forms of conversion in the history of Nepal — including conversion from Newar tantric Buddhism to newly-imported modernist Theravāda Buddhism (Gellner 2005, Letizia 2007). The notion of “internal conversion” is used in some of these or other Buddhist contexts. Exploring varieties of “conversion” in a wider sense may include the process of formally “taking refuge” and becoming a serious practitioner, as we see in Chinese contexts (e.g., Chau forthcoming). The mass conversion to (Ambedkarite or Navayāna) Buddhism by Indian Dalit groups (e.g., Beltz 2005) has also been a major, striking 20th century example of (here socio-politically motivated) conversion. Buddhist societies also stand out markedly as places where, on the whole, global missionizing efforts of Christian groups (Pentecostals, etc.) have been somewhat less successful than elsewhere. Some studies (e.g., Edwards 2018, Mahadev 2018) have examined these frontlines of tense religious plurality, rivalry, nationalist anti-conversion reactions, etc. Finally, echoing somewhat these historical and ethnographic studies but exploring also specific themes (the “conversion” of alien gods and demons, etc.) one finds the study of Buddhist iconography and narratives on what could be called “conversion” in canonical sources (Zin 2006, de Brux in progress).

The aim of this one-day conference is to bring into hopefully fruitful interdisciplinary and comparative discussion analyses of these various forms of what we call “conversion” in these diverse Buddhist contexts.

Document(s) à télécharger

Document(s) à télécharger

Centre Asie du Sud-Est (CASE)


Campus Condorcet

2 cours des humanités

93322 Aubervilliers Cedex

tél : 33 (0)1 88 12 01 98

Métro : Ligne 12, arrêt "Front Populaire"



Direction collégiale

Email collectif : dir.case[at]ehess.fr

Véronique Degroot

Anne-Valérie Schweyer
Annabel Vallard





Secrétariat général




Olivier Merveille - olivier.merveille[at]ehess.fr





Sophie Hénon - sophie.henon[at]cnrs.fr 



Pierre Boccanfuso - pboccanfuso[at]yahoo.com