ASCL Seminar: Religious engineering - a practice approach to (religious) projects of social transformation
- Thursday 25 February 2021
This lecture will take place online. Registrees will receive a link a few days before the lecture. Please note that this webinar will take place in the morning.
This lecture presents the ongoing research project "Religious engineering. The making of moralities, development and religion in Niger", carried out with Paula Schrode, Mahaman Tidjani Alou and two doctoral students, Hamissou Rhissa Achaffert and Abdoulaye Ibrahim Bachir.
Searches for transformation on the African continent are shaped by a high frequency of interventions by international experts and organizations of all kinds, as well as many (trans-) national and civil society initiatives. Our research focuses on transformation projects in Niger, which strive for a "just", "liberated" or somehow "better" society, and that are in one way or another related to religious traditions, for instance, projects by Islamic associations, Pentecostal Churches, or development actors.
The talk introduces "religious engineering" as a concept for analyzing those active and conscious attempts to work on the future shape of society, which refer to religious resources such as religious teachings, actors, institutions, or symbols. It assumes that relating to a religious tradition with the purpose of "improving" a particular situation is a way to both, "engineer" society and the religious tradition itself. The perspective of "religious engineering" adds ethnographic complexity to the study of the religion/development-nexus and aims to better understand processes in Niger, which are generally described as Islamization, NGO-ization or development.
Studying transformative practices with a "religious engineering" perspective not only helps to see how notions of "change" and differentiations between "religious" and "secular" evolve and become blurred in and through these practices; by understanding projects of transformation as competing moral projects, it also explores ways of doing ethics through the manifold practices of improving or developing society and religion.