Instrumental, Narrow, Normative? Reviewing Recent Work on Religion and Development

Posted: 26 Jan 2015

See all articles by Ben Jones

Ben Jones

University of East Anglia (UEA)

Marie Petersen

Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Date Written: January 01, 2011

Abstract

There is a growing body of research on religion and development, primarily from development scholars and practitioners. In many ways this represents a new departure for development studies, which has been largely uninterested in religion in the past. This growing interest can be explained through a number of inter-linking factors, including the persistence of religion in much of the world, and the sense that existing approaches to development have been ineffective. In reviewing the literature we put forward three broad criticisms. First, it is instrumental in its approach—it is interested in understanding how religion can be used to do development ‘better’. Second, it has a narrow focus on faith-based organisations, which is in many ways a consequence of the need to understand religion instrumentally. Third, it is based on normative assumptions in terms of how both religion and development are conceptualised: religion is understood to be apart from ‘mainstream’ development, while development is defined as that thing that development agencies do. In making sense of these criticisms we emphasise the extent to which the recent interest in religion and development has come from donors and development agencies. We found little evidence of academic research on religion and development prefiguring the interest of the World Bank or bilateral agencies. The article concludes with some suggestions of how to move forward.

Suggested Citation

Jones, Ben and Petersen, Marie, Instrumental, Narrow, Normative? Reviewing Recent Work on Religion and Development (January 01, 2011). Third World Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 7, 1291-1306, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2553927

Ben Jones (Contact Author)

University of East Anglia (UEA) ( email )

Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

Marie Petersen

Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) ( email )

Strandgade 56, 1401
Copenhagen K
Denmark

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