Rel08
Religious organizations as moral agents in urban Africa

Convenors:
Marloes Janson (SOAS, University of London)
Hansjörg Dilger (Freie Universität Berlin)
Felician Tungaraza (University of Dar es Salaam)
Discussant:
Abdulkader Tayob (University of Cape Town)
Stream:
Religion
Location:
Chrystal McMillan, Seminar Room 4
Sessions:
Thursday 13 June, 17:55-19:25

Short abstract:

By combining a view of the moral, material, and political dimensions of religious organizations, and analysing the connections between global, national, and local dynamics, this panel explores how religion intersects with different notions of development in African urban settings.

Long abstract:

As argued by many authors, religion will increasingly determine the future and trajectories of Africa's cities in the twenty-first century. Indeed, since the late 1980s religious organizations have invested heavily in - and partially profited from - both development activities and urban restructuring plans. By stepping into the vacuum that was left by the retreating state and the failing urban infrastructure, religious entrepreneurs actively engage the social and material worlds they help to create. By means of a series of ethnographic case studies of religious organizations involved in education, healthcare, and social service provision, this panel asks what the role of faith, the interconnectedness with local, national and transnational donors, and the contingency of urban living is in binding these diverse organizations into moral communities. In this spirit, the case studies shed light on the processes whereby faith is conjoined to broader projects of economic and social transformation and the (re)making of moral life in urban Africa. Presenters are asked to address the question of how religious entrepreneurs make material progress morally acceptable - thereby considering that development always also has a flipside: disruption or even failure. When does religion as a motor for development turn into a brake on perceived progress? By combining a view of the moral, material, and political dimensions of religious organizations, and analysing the connections between global, national, and local dynamics, this panel aims to explore how religion intersects with different notions of development in African urban settings.