1st Edition

Religious Organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia Connections to Society and the State

By Carole Rakodi Copyright 2024

    This book explores the links between religion, states, social welfare and social change in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Building on the author’s previous analysis of how religious beliefs, practices and values influence social behaviour and relationships, especially within families, this book focuses on the organisational characteristics of religions and societies.

    The book considers how Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist organisations working in different contexts express the religious values of charity and compassion in practical activities to improve social welfare. Drawing on extensive empirical research, the book maps the organisations involved, identifying the factors that explain their choice of activities, sources of funding and modes of organisation, and highlighting similarities and differences between the religious traditions. It considers the involvement of religious actors in school-level education, as well as in international humanitarian relief and reconstruction, and addresses the claim that religious organisations have distinctive features that give them comparative advantages. Finally, the book reviews research on the roles of religious values and organisations in resisting or promoting social change, focusing on women’s movements, especially their campaigns for changes in family law, and the quest for social and legal recognition for sexual and gender minorities.

    The book’s wide coverage of two subcontinents in the Global South and several important religious traditions will be of interest to researchers and students in the fields of sociology, international development, religious studies, anthropology and area studies, as well as to those engaged in policy and action who are looking to improve their understanding of the complex social, cultural, political and religious contexts in which they work.

    PART I: Religions, societies and states: An introduction

    1               Conceptual building blocks

    2               Analysing religion, societies and states

    3               Developing an understanding of the roles of religious organisations

    PART II: The social roles of religious organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: Practical efforts to improve welfare

    4               The social roles of Muslim organisations in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa

    5               Christian organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: Traditional and new patterns of social engagement

    6               Hindu and Buddhist religious organisations’ involvement in social welfare activities

    7               Religious organisations as education providers: Alternatives to or allies of governments?

    PART III: Religious values and organisations: Resisting or promoting social change?

    8               Religious involvement in women’s movements: The quest for changes in family law

    9               Religious actors in movements seeking social and legal recognition for sexual and gender minorities

    10            Conclusion


    Carole Rakodi is Emeritus Professor at the International Development Department, School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham, UK.

    “This book is as comprehensive as can be given the wide-ranging and vastly under-researched field of religious organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that it tackles. Rakodi has accomplished a feat of synthesis and, most importantly, analysis that elevates the research field to new heights. A must-read for students and researchers, along with the first volume, this book clarifies the key concepts and parameters of what can be an unwieldy research field because of the complex and ever-changing nature of religious and societal interaction. In this volume on connections to society and the state, Rakodi unveils the entanglements of religious organisations in national and local political and social movements, demonstrating why blind attempts at co-option of religious assets for humanitarian and development ends are problematic. Instead, it is the kind of contextual analysis presented in this book, as tied to an understanding of key concepts and frameworks, that development programming with religious organisations needs.”

     Olivia Wilkinson, PhD, Director of Research

    "It is hard to think of anyone with a broader knowledge of the intersection of religious studies and development studies than Carole Rakodi, who directed an ambitious research programme on Religions and Development at the University of Birmingham, England, between 2005 and 2011. Since the programme closed, Rakodi has consolidated her mastery of a wealth of published material and she now offers a fair-minded and conscientious synthesis, always aware of the dangers of bias and overgeneralization, and leaving space for readers to arrive at their own conclusions. She documents in fine detail how religions (however we define the term) are double­­­­­­­­­-edged swords – nowhere more problematically than as analysed in her original and deeply considered chapter on the conflicting positions taken by religious movements on LGBT+ issues."

    Jonathan Benthall, Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University College London, and Director Emeritus, Royal Anthropological Institute