Christiane Heibach / Matthew Pianalto / Regina Rini / Justin E. Smith / Jen Cole Wright

From a research perspective, personal conviction, as a moral, cultural, and emotional concept, has largely escaped scrutiny, with only a few studies investigating what is defined as “an unshakeable belief in something, without seeking evidence”; or, as the Oxford English Dictionary has it, “a firm and settled persuasion.” Beliefs are based on certain sets of values, but what about the much stronger term “conviction”? Where do our convictions come from? Why do they compel us to certain actions? Are they generated or maintained by certain affects? Does it cost us to follow our convictions? How do we communicate them to those around us? And can we listen when conviction clashes with conviction?

These questions are at the core of this 2-day workshop as we are looking for ways to repair fissures and tears in our social tissue. We live in a time where the loudest, and often most caustic, voices appear to garner the lion’s share of national attention. Where divisiveness gets rewarded and polarization is often the result, it is critical to demonstrate that there are other paths we can take towards a more civil national and international discourse.


While the approach to the workshop is exploratory, the aim is to gather a number of voices and a variety of (inter)disciplinary scholarship that contribute to a multi-disciplinary conversation about the concept (or phenomenon) of conviction. Invited participants represent different fields of inquiry so that – within this very small group – we can engage the discourses from each perspective as productively as possible. The two days will consist of 5 formal talks and open discussions.

The papers from this workshop will be gathered in a larger collection of articles that highlight the interconnections we can begin to identify during our conversations, but that also present the different angles (epistemologically, culturally, historically) from which conviction is understood, communicated, and practiced today.