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Doing Good: Religions and Development in Africa


MARCH 6, 2020 - 9:00AM - 3:00PM
Encina Hall, Garden level Room 029

This two-day conference looks at the interaction between development discourse and practices in Africa on one hand, and religious belief, on the other. It has long been noted that Christian and Muslim institutions, as well as those associated with traditional religions, have played a significant role in the provision of public goods and services in Africa (i.e. education, healthcare provision and support for the needy.) In this sense, they have long been concerned with what we now call development. Yet mid-twentieth-century developmentalism typically positioned development as an a-religious and secular alternative to religious charity. This apparent contrast has considerably softened in recent years. Our 20 speakers - including historians, anthropologists, and religious studies scholars - will explore the complex entanglements between secular development and religious commitments. Among other topics, speakers will examine the ways in which development experts have endorsed 'faith-based organizations' as a means for development intervention as well as how many religious organizations have come to position their activities as developmental and centered around the quest for self-improvement. Ultimately, it seems, the promises of religious proselytisers were never only about the next world, nor those of development experts entirely about the present one. 

Open to affiliated faculty and students only. RSVP required.

List of Participants

Keynote: Professor Nimi Wariboko Boston University

Professor Barbara Cooper, Rutgers University

Professor Harri Englund, Cambridge University

Professor Devaka Premawardhana, Emory University

Professor Mayke Kaag, Leiden University

Professor M. Yunus Rafiq, New York University

Ms. Aala Abdelgadir, Stanford University

Professor Charlotte Walker-Said, City University of New York

Professor Marie-Nathalie Le Blanc, University of Quebec at Montreal

Professor Ann Swidler, UC Berkeley

Professor Mara Leichtman, Michigan State University

Professor Sean Hanretta, North West University

Mr. Charles Prempeh, University of Cambridge

Ms. Jennifer Upton, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Mr. Kabiru Haruna Isa, University of Kano, Nigeria

Ms. Devon Golaszewski, Columbia University


Read the program

View event poster