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Brokering Religion and Development: Ethnographic Approaches to NGOs

May 18, 2017 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm

The past decade has witnessed a remarkable surge of interest among both policy makers and academics into the effects that religion has on international aid and development. Within this broad field ‘religious NGOs’ or ‘Faith-Based Organizations’ (FBOs) have garnered considerable scholarly and professional attention, resulting in a flurry of surveys and mapping exercises, as well as a number of practitioner-oriented handbooks and toolkits aiming at integrating religion into development programming. Beyond these attempts at conceptualizing the field at a macro level, more recently there has also been significant new research examining the work of particular organizations and contexts from ethnographic perspectives. This growing literature provides new tools to better appreciate the ways in which emergent institutional forms advocating diverse social interventions arise out of or in conversation with religious communities and discourses on transcendent values. This, in turn, sheds light on the variety of ways in which FBOs are reshaping the global landscape of non-governmental organizations and their work across diverse societies – thus opening up new conversations on the possibilities and problematics of contemporary engagements of religion in the public sphere in diverse societies across the globe. This presentation features critical reflections on cutting edge work in this direction by a team of researchers examining dynamics of religion and NGOs in Southeast Asia based at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, and the University of Oxford.

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R. Michael Feener is the Sultan of Oman Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and Islamic Centre Lecturer in the History Faculty at the University of Oxford. He was formerly Research Leader of the Religion and Globalisation Research Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, and Associate Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore. He has also taught at Reed College and the University of California, Riverside, and held visiting professor positions and research fellowships at Harvard, Kyoto University, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), the University of Copenhagen, The Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (Honolulu), and the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) in Leiden, the Netherlands. He has published extensively in the fields of Islamic studies and Southeast Asian history, as well as on post-disaster reconstruction, religion, and development.

Catherine Scheer is a post-doctoral fellow in the Religion and Globalisation Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She received her PhD in anthropology from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris and her Masters from Paris West University. In her doctoral thesis, she examined the multifaceted encounters between the Bunong inhabitants of a highland commune in Cambodia, and different waves of Protestant development actors, reflecting on questions of indigeneity, morality, and personhood. Her post-doctoral research at ARI explores how international organisations, including Christian NGOs, produce knowledge to inform policy recommendations on multi-lingual education in South-East Asia.

Giuseppe Bolotta is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Religion and Globalisation Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He is a psychologist and socio-cultural anthropologist. He earned his PhD in Anthropology from University Bicocca of Milan, and his Master’s in Psychology from University San Raffaele of Milan. In 2013, while on a PhD exchange program in Bangkok, he also undertook political science training at Chulalongkorn University. His doctoral research is a multi-situated ethnography of religious, humanitarian and state institutional policies for poor children living in the slums of Bangkok (Thailand). He is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled: “Slum Children: Cultural Politics of Marginal Childhood in Bangkok”. He co-founded the scholarly network “Sciences de l’Enfance, Enfants des Sciences” (SEES, http://sciences-enfances.org) and has worked with Psychologists without Frontiers (PSF).


May 18, 2017
12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
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New York
Knox Hall, Room 509
New York, NY 10027 United States
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