Deconversion narratives are becoming increasingly visible in American culture: recent films by Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) and Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) chronicle a character’s involvement with, and eventual departure from a new religious movement; former Pentecostal minister and staunch atheist Jerry Dewitt has been touring the country sharing his deconversion experience and offering assistance to those who are “recovering from religion.” These recent developments compliment a long history of deconversion narratives in American literature, which includes work by Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Lee Smith, Chaim Potok, Mary McCarthy, and Mary Rowlandson. What do these narratives, and others like them, tell us about the position and influence of religions in the United States? As the position and influence of religions has changed, how have deconversion narrative transformed? How do cultural producers use these narratives to present new identities and secure membership in different communities? How are elements of religious practices that are left behind recuperated and re-imagined to accommodate new identities and communities? Papers may consider any historical period and any medium.
The 2013 American Studies Association conference will be held Nov. 21-24 in Washington, D.C. Please submit abstracts (300 words), a brief bio, and a c.v. to Andrew Connolly (email@example.com) by January 5.