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International Development and Religion Unit

Call for Proposals

Theologies and Ideologies of Faith-based Humanitarianism and Development
In this panel we are interested in papers that explore how faith-based humanitarian and development organisations navigate their faith identity within the ostensibly secular space of the global aid business. The faith-based humanitarian and development sector has grown rapidly over the past 20 years. However, there is evidence that these organisations secularise their discourse at the global level as part of their ‘mastery of the development language’ which, to quote from Olivier de Sardan’s book Anthropology and Development, ‘is their ticket for entry into an international network, access to the developmentalist configuration and therefore to the promise of funds and projects’ (2005, 183). At the same time, though, these organisations do not completely lose their faith identity and their theologies and ideologies continue to shape their work. At the global level there are certain issues around which particular faith actors sometimes coalesce (e.g. reproductive health and sexual rights) and make their faith perspective felt even without explicit recourse to religious arguments. And with their supporters and at the local level, the explicit use of a faith register is a distinct advantage, to bring in funding and to connect with local beneficiaries who have a strong faith identity. There can also exist ideological and theological diversities embedded within different institutional approaches to humanitarian and development practice. This panel is interested in exploring how faith-based humanitarian and development organisations negotiate, (re)configure and communicate their theologies and ideologies in the multiple interactions that shape their work.

Possible co-sponsored panel with the Religions, Social Conflict, and Peace Unit:
Faith in the Humanitarianism-Development-Peace Nexus
An outcome from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) was the 'New Way of Working' (NWoW), which means that humanitarian, development and peace actors are recommended to work together (the 'triple nexus') ‘to capitalize on the comparative advantages of each sector to reduce need, risk and vulnerability…in accordance with the 2030 SDG agenda’ (Relief Web, no date). The NWoW recognises that although humanitarian, development and peacebuilding are different activities, they are fundamentally linked and organisations focusing on one or more of these should adopt a combined approach to programming (Oxfam 2019). While this is gaining traction in practice and academia, to date the role that religion and faith actors play has been largely overlooked. There is little focus on religion and faith actors in literature on the NWoW despite evidence that local peacebuilding, development and humanitarian actors, including those that are faith-based, often naturally adopt an integrated approach, but are hampered by a siloed approach to these activities, bolstered by conventions around how donor funds can be used. This panel is interested in papers that explore the ways that faith actors, from international faith-based organisations to local faith actors, approach the humanitarianism-development-peace nexus, the barriers they face and what needs to be done in order to overcome them.

Statement of Purpose

Since its establishment as an academic discipline in the 1960's the field of International Development Studies (IDS) has evolved from a fragmented topic, contained within the many silos of different academic departments, into an interdisciplinary field that draws on knowledge from across the humanities and social sciences. Despite this growing trend, until recently, religious and theological studies have found it a challenge to contribute to this growing conversation. The International Development and Religion Unit was established at the AAR in 2009 as one avenue through which religious and theological studies could engage in this emerging constructive dialogue with development studies.

The primary objective of our Unit is to use the AAR’s interdisciplinary and international reach as a focal point to gather scholars from across the humanities and social sciences, including those outside the AAR, who are engaged in the study of the space and place of religion in the context of economic, political and socio-cultural development in the global south.

We wish to support theoretically robust and practically oriented research that interrogates the post/de/colonial, theological, religious and missionary assumptions and mentalities of the global confluence of international development and religion in the developing world, including, but not limited to the investigations of current faith-based NGO’s and their projects in the field, practitioner-based research and reflection from the field and the encounter between private and public religion(s) in the developing world.


Steering Committee Members


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Papers of sufficient quality will be considered for publication in an edited volume on the same or similar theme for the Routledge Research in Religion and Development book series. (see [])

Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members