TAFARAD15U Thematic course: Religion and Development

Volume 2018/2019

MA programme in African Studies


This course will look into the relationship between religion and development and analyse the question of what role religion plays in development at the practical, ideological and religious levels. The course offers a critical reading of the current ways in which religion has been linked to development by way of broadening the focus to include also belief, religious ideas and experiences. We will discuss changing trends in how religion has been approached in development policy and practice. We examine the role of religion in development, both as an enabling factor, but also in conflicts and radicalisation. We will read the more 'focused' literature on the role of religion in development, but will also widen the perspective to look at religion in contexts of conflict, displacement, as well as in relation to forms of mutual assistance that lie outside the institutional boundaries of NGOs and faith-based organisations. The course will also pay some attention to how religious ideas and experiences shape social practices, social relationships and how people perceive development and their engagement with development organisations. The main focus is on Christianity and Islam, but other religious traditions will also be discussed in particular as part of understanding how the encounters between different religious ideas and practices interact with ideas and practices of development. The empirical focus of the course is on Africa, but we will also draw on examples from other contexts. We will invite a number of guest speakers from organisations working in the field of religion and development.


Preliminary course themes and program:


  • Introduction and trends within the literature and the practical field
  • Religion, international organisations and civil society
  • Faith-based organisations, service delivery and mobilisation
  • Case study with representative from organisation
  • Humanitarianism and religion
  • Charity, gifts and relations of exchange
  • Development and missionaries – a historical perspective
  • Islam, aid and development
  • Religion and human rights
  • Religion, conflict and displacement
  • Religion, politics and power
  • Essay supervision
Learning Outcome
  • Identify how the role of religion in development has been discussed and approached both in policy and in academic literature
  • Understand the underlying epistemological differences for how we can understand the relationship between religion and development
  • Independently and critically analyse how religion and processes of development are interacting, overlapping, conflicting, and mutually constituting each other.

Ager, Joey et al. 2015. Local Faith Communities and the Promotion of Resilience in Contexts of Humanitarian Crisis. Journal of Refugees Studies


Barnett, Michael and Stein, Janice. 2012. Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Bornstein, Erica. 2005. The Spirit of Development: Protestant NGOs, morality, and economics in Zimbabwe. Stanford University Press.


Burchardt, Marian. 2013. ‘Faith-Based humanitarianism: Organizational change and everyday meaning in South Africa’, Sociology of Religion 71(1): 30-55.


Clarke, Matthew (ed.). 2013. Handbook of Research on Religion and Development. Edward Elgar.


Lauterbach, Karen. 2014. Religion and Displacement in Africa: Compassion and Sacrifice in Congolese Churches in Kampala, Uganda, Religion & Theology 21 (3-4): 290-308.


Lauterbach, Karen. (forthcoming). Compassion, Grace and Reciprocity: The Moral Practices of Providing Help in Congolese Churches, Uganda. Journal of Religion in Africa.


Tomalin, Emma (ed.). 2015. The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development. London and New York: Routledge. 


Ranger, Terence. 2008. Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 


Scherz, China. 2014. Having People, Having Heart. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Two hours per week for one semester.
The teaching approach of the course consist of a combination of seminar series combined with class discussions and other activities. The course also draws on cases from organisations working within the field.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 120
  • Exam Preparation
  • 150
  • Total
  • 420
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A written paper on a topic of the student's own choosing comprising 36,000-43,200 characters.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal censorship
Exam period

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