Perhaps the prickliest subject in the emerging field of ‘religion and development’ concerns the question of proselytisation. The melding of religious propagation with development and humanitarian activity is widely regarded as immoral, illegitimate and distasteful. This separation has become such a prominent article of faith in development circles that any suggestion otherwise is tantamount to heresy.
In this seminar I seek to re-think this apparently settled consensus. Precisely because it is seen as such a problem proselytisation is a pivotal concept to think with in research into the cultural politics of development. Drawing on anthropological critiques of the category of ‘religion’ I go beyond examining the pervasive ways that religious and development agendas have been entangled to explore the question of whether development itself is inherently proselytising.
Philip Fountain is a Senior Research Fellow in the Religion Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. He has a PhD in anthropology from the Australian National University.
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