Home  / 2728

Negotiating transformation and difference: Women’s stories of conversion to Judaism and Islam


Publication Name

Publication Date

Publication Place



This chapter highlights stories of women’s conversion in contemporary Western European contexts. Theorising the connections among religion, storytelling, identity, subject-formation, and conversion, the chapter conceptualises conversion stories as enabling individual subjects to negotiate a terrain of difference and transformation, including multiple dimensions of belonging. On the basis of a critical operationalisation of Wohlrab-Sahr’s (1999) analytical concepts of ‘syncretism’ and ‘symbolic battle’, the analysis focuses on four memoirs written by women who turn to Judaism and Islam, and looks at motivations for conversion, and understandings of the past and present and different selves. The case studies show that the memoirs construct lifeworlds and selves on a continuum of syncretic and symbolic battle scripts. They moreover demonstrate that converts’ experiences need to be situated within the respective religious traditions, as well as within larger discourses about Judaism and Islam in Western Europe. As such, the chapter contributes empirical insights into experiences of religious, social, and gendered trajectories of conversion/transformation. Moreover, it connects empirical converts’ experiences of becoming Jewish or Muslim to theorising the positions of Judaism and Islam as minoritised traditions and communities in Western Europe.




Geographic Coverage

Original Language



Worldcat Record



Link to download (paywalled), Women wearing the tallit: Tracing gender, belonging, and conversion of new Jewish women

Bibliographic Information

van den Brandt, Nella Negotiating transformation and difference: Women’s stories of conversion to Judaism and Islam. Transforming Bodies and Religions: Powers and Agencies in Europe. Routledge. 2020:  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/10.4324/9780367808754