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JULY 2013: ISTR Africa Regional Network Conference
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7/11/2013 to 7/13/2013
When: 7/11/2013

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11-13 July 2013

Nairobi, Kenya

Call for Papers

Faith, Civil Society and Development in Africa

Religious institutions are key structural components of civil society. The historical and future development of modern Africa is intimately tied to the forces of belief and religion with some of the most prominent manifestations of civil society on the African continent being Faith Based organisations (FBOs). Faith and belief featured in both colonial penetration and in anti-colonial struggles in the continent.


Moreover, FBOs often fulfil critical functions in social service provision in areas such as health and education, in influencing government policies, as well as in advocating on behalf of poor people and marginalized.  FBOs have also featured prominently in recent African socioeconomic and political history, in human rights crusades and democratization struggles.  Framing their demands on the basis of a liberation theology, for instance, FBOs teaming with other civil society actors and opposition political parties played a huge role in organising and mobilising people to act against socioeconomic and political injustices in society as well as in the agitation for new constitutional order in Kenya.  In Northern African countries, they have recently been instrumental in electoral outcomes.  In short, FBOs are critical constituent elements of social development and in Africa’s politics. Arguably therefore, besides ethnicity, faith is a significant variable influencing governance, conflict, and the nature of the African nation-state.  


Despite increasing recognition of faith – for good or ill - as an inescapable factor in the continent’s development, in social scientific analysis, faith has not been accorded adequate attention.  To redress this relative neglect, at a conference to be held in Nairobi in 2013, the ISTR Africa regional network conference shall be examining manifestations of faith and its influence to civil society, governance and development in Africa.


Specifically, we seek papers that address the broad question of how faith has affected group and individual relations, civil society, governance and the process of development on the African continent. Papers should broadly focus on the many, often contradictory, roles faith plays at both national and transnational levels with a view to addressing the following subthemes and questions:

·       Faith and governance in Africa. How has and does faith affect the mechanics and trajectories of governing in Africa?

·       Religion/faith and democracy in Africa.  How is faith influencing the processes of democratization either positively or negatively on the continent’s states? Does faith add to or mollify the suppression of the individual needs of social groups (e.g. women and immigrants) and dissenters in the public and political sphere?

·       Faith and conflict in Africa. To what extent has faith contributed to social cohesion and integration or been a source of conflict and divisiveness in Africa?  How has faith induced challenges to state stability, equality and development in Africa? To what extent have conflicts in African countries including but not limited to Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Mali, and Sudan been influenced by faith and religion? How has faith influenced the generation, responses and resolution of conflict and attendant humanitarian crisis on the continent?

·       Faith and the political economy of development: How has the political-economy of faith based development aid in Africa shaped patterns of social organisations and development in Africa?

·       Faith and values in Africa: How has faith shaped values in civil society and society in general? What does a faith lens reveal about the nature of civil society in African countries?

·       The relationship between Faith Based civil society and secular civil society in Africa.  What is the nature of relationship(s) between FBOs and secular civil society in Africa? What determines the nature of the relationship?  Are there differences in development outcomes driven by religious based civil society and the secular civil society?

·       Faith and social capital in Africa.  How has faith contributed to social capital in both its bonding and bridging forms and what are the implications for state stability in Africa?

·       Faith and class formation in Africa. How have beliefs and faith been mobilized in the interest of class in Africa?

·       Faith and the public sphere in Africa. Obadare (2007)has observed an uneasy and unstable relationship between religious forces and the public spheres as religious forces simultaneously complement but also undermine the public domain. To what extent do observations made of Nigeria cascade to the rest of African nation states? Is faith marginal even in the so-called secular states in Africa?

·       Faith, philanthropy, giving and volunteerism in Africa. Does faith inspire and inform patterns of giving and receiving assistance between Africa’s populations?

·       Faith and service provision. What would access to social services look like on the continent if it were not for the presence of faith based organisations and why?


Abstracts of between 500 and 700 words should be submitted to Dineo Seabe at by 15 February 2013.


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