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A Theoretical Framework for Engaging With Religion in Development Projects

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Journal of Developing Societies
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    http://jds.sagepub.com/  Journal of Developing Societies  http://jds.sagepub.com/content/30/3/323The online version of this article can be found at: DOI: 10.1177/0169796X14536973 2014 30: 323 Journal of Developing Societies  Atif Ikram Butt ProjectsA Theoretical Framework for Engaging with Religion in Development  Published by:  http://www.sagepublications.com  can be found at: Journal of Developing Societies  Additional services and information for http://jds.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts: http://jds.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions: http://jds.sagepub.com/content/30/3/323.refs.html Citations: What is This? - Aug 22, 2014Version of Record >> at University of Hawaii at Manoa Library on August 28, 2014 jds.sagepub.comDownloaded from at University of Hawaii at Manoa Library on August 28, 2014 jds.sagepub.comDownloaded from  Copyright © 2014 SAGE Publications www.sagepublications.com(Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC)Vol 30(3): 323–341. DOI: 10.1177/0169796X14536973 A Theoretical Framework for Engaging with Religion in Development Projects Atif Ikram Butt Ruhr University Bochum, Germany ABSTRACT  In academic debates and at practical level too, there is a degree of polarization between those who view religion, particularly Islam, as a developmental obstacle and those who regards it as a developmental solution. It is contended that such a polarized debate is unhelpful for the study and practice of development. A dispassionate analysis of the role and effect of religion, which could bring the rationalist and post-development discourses closer, can better help development  practitioners. Based on the theory of social capital and its offshoots, a theoretical  framework is proposed to help development institutions and practitioners for the evaluation of their programs and polices of engagement with religion and religious actors, particularly in Muslim-majority countries. Keywords: social capital, religious capital, spiritual capital, development and religion The term “development” throughout in its post colonial scholarship has been more akin with the concepts of secularism and modernism. Its earliest construct defined poverty and backwardness in relation to the socio-political standards of the industrialized nations. Underdeveloped countries, thus, constituted those lacking what the Western World had, not just in terms of money and material processions but also in relation to scientific and technological advancements and political and economic systems. The cultural facet of “development as modernization” essen-tially meant secularization. The ascendancy of naturalist and rationalist dominated discourse of the time rallied on nonreligious understanding of bases of social institutions and human capacity to control the world through logic and calculation (Peet & Hartwick 2009, p. 107). However, first under the critique of dependency theorists and later with the demise of Bretton Wood system, much of the homogenizing thrust of modernity subsided in the 1970s. But it is only recently that religion has started forming some scholarly space in the study and practice of development. at University of Hawaii at Manoa Library on August 28, 2014 jds.sagepub.comDownloaded from  324  Journal of Developing Societies 30, 3 (2014): 323–341 This shift, though paradoxical, is triggered mainly due to the persistence of so-called “Political Islam.” Its first vivid manifestation was the Iranian Islamic Revolution that highlighted continuing importance of religion in lives and identifies of people as well as in the political space. This trend seems to have only gained further momentum and strength in Muslim-majority countries.“Development” remains a highly contested term. In its modern sense, both as a verb implying a process and as adjective suggesting some sort of a standard or manifestation, “development” has primarily been associ-ated with economic growth. By 1970s, “development” was already seen not just in terms of economic factors but also as a “movement upward of the entire social system”, comprising noneconomic factors of social and political stratification (Myrdal, 1974, p. 729). By 1990s, the mean-ing of “development” got further expansion and its “ideals” included not just economic and noneconomic factors but also the “principles of diversity and srcinality” as essential (Slim, 1995, p. 148). The con-cept of “Development” is presented as participatory, people-centered and accountable in process and its outcomes as intended, recognized, and accepted (Remenyi, 2004, p. 43). Its most recent extension goes even beyond human, social, spiritual, and cultural values and calling it “true” if not only in process but also in impact it involves both the parties, the one who receives and the other which gives development (Swantz, 2009, p. 35). From its initial “positivist” thrust, the term “development” has gained more of a normative outlook being subjected to various value  judgments, which remains at the heart of this contention. Under post struc-turalist and postcolonialist critique, even this normative facet of “devel-opment” is questioned as being “still stuck in modernist paradigms”, and existing only in discursive formation as a product of power constructed within representation (Tripathy & Mohapatra, 2011, p. 95). The various meanings of “development,” however, do exist and are put in practice as a conscious effort by outsiders, even if its formation is discursive and its constructs embroiled with claims of “real” and “unreal” to produce conceived notions of positive change in a particular setting. It is then of little surprise that the intersection of “development” with “religion” or vice versa is even more of a perilous undertaking.The academic debate on the effects of religion on development, par-ticularly of Islam, is still at best split. On the one side of the spectrum are the like of Bernard Lewis who reckon Islam to be a genuine obstacle to development in contrast to Western civilization that define modernity at University of Hawaii at Manoa Library on August 28, 2014 jds.sagepub.comDownloaded from  Journal of Developing Societies 30, 3 (2014): 323–341   Butt:   Religion in Development Projects 325 and which has been enriched by its capacity to absorb positive influences of other cultures (Haddad, 1982, p. 10; Kuran, 1997; Lewis, 2002, p. 150; Platteau, 2008, p. 332). On the other side of this debate are those who hold that Islam supports economic development and rather the cause of decline is not the religion but its abandonment by Muslims (Chapra, 2008, p. 45; Noland, 2005; Zebiri, 1993, p. 3). At the practical level too, there is a degree of polarization in perceptions between those who view religion, particularly Islam, as a developmental obstacle and those who regards it as a developmental solution. Here, the latter is charged with inadver-tently encouraging fundamentalism and legitimizing religious authorities and their conservative agenda. The former, under the onslaught of post development and post modernists theorists, is accused of neglecting non-economic factors, including religion, and undertaking approaches which fail to take account of local realities (Kirmani & Philips, 2011, pp. 94 and 97). In between these two extremities are those who have taken a defensive line and see religion more of a developmental concern than an obstacle. This group is reaching out to religious authorities primar-ily to win over their support and to deflect religiously driven skepticism and resistance (Balchin, 2003, p. 42). It is contended in this article that such polarized debates are unhelpful for the study and practice of devel-opment. A dispassionate analysis of the role and effect of religion, which could bring the rationalist and post-development discourses closer, can better help development practitioners in their initiatives. Using religion in general and engaging with religious actors in particular in develop-ment projects have strong theoretical underpinnings in the concept of  social capital (Bourdieu, 1986). Based on the theory of  social capital   and its offshoots, a theoretical framework is proposed to help development organizations and practitioners for the evaluation of their programs and polices of engagement with religion and religious actors, particularly in Muslim-majority countries. Three Spheres of  Faith Capital  While the concept of  social capital   is much older, it is essentially Robert Putnam who, through a series of works, launched it in academic circles, and policy discussions (Putnam, 1995a, 2000). 1  In Putnam’s description,  social capital   comprises “features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit” (pp. 65–66). In a joint essay with Caiazza (2005, p. 71), at University of Hawaii at Manoa Library on August 28, 2014 jds.sagepub.comDownloaded from
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