Thematic course: Religion and Development

Course content

This course addresses the relationship between religion, development and sustainability and will analyse the question: what role does religion play in development? Through a critical reading of the current ways religion has been linked to development, the course offers understanding to practical and ideological currents at play while also considering the role of religious belief, ideas and experiences in shaping social worlds. We discuss trends in the way religion has been conceived in development policy and practice. We examine the role of religion in development as an enabling factor as well as its part in conflicts and radicalisation. We will look at aspects of activism, political advocacy and environmentalism from both an international and local grass roots perspective, inside and outside institutional boundaries of NGO’s and faith-based organizations. Attention will furthermore be placed on how religious ideas, values and experiences shape social practices, influence the public sphere, perceptions on the environment and interactions with development agents. The course focuses primarily on Christianity and Islam, but other religious traditions will be covered to situate diverse approaches and perspectives across religious and secular lines. The main empirical focus is on Africa, but other geographical contexts will also be covered. The course will invite guest speakers working in the field of religion and development.


MA programme in African Studies

Learning outcome
  • Identify how the role of religion in development has been discussed and approached both in policy and in academic literature

  • Understand the underlying epistemological differences for how we can understand the relationship between religion and development

  • Independently and critically analyse how religion and processes of development are interacting, overlapping, conflicting, and mutually constituting each other.

The course is organised in two sessions/week á 2 hours over the second half of the semester (7 weeks). The teaching approach of the course consists of a combination of seminar series in conjunction with class discussions and other activities. The course also draws on cases from organisations working within the field.

Suggested preliminary literature:

Ager, Joey et al. 2015. Local Faith Communities and the Promotion of Resilience in Contexts of Humanitarian Crisis. Journal of Refugees Studies

Barnett, Michael and Stein, Janice. 2012. Sacred Aid: Faith and Humanitarianism. Oxford University Press.

Bompani, Barbara, and Caroline Valois (Eds.). 2018. Christian citizens and the moral regeneration of the African state. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.

Bornstein, Erica. 2005. The Spirit of Development: Protestant NGOs, morality, and economics in Zimbabwe. Stanford University Press.

Burchardt, Marian. 2013. ‘Faith-Based humanitarianism: Organizational change and everyday meaning in South Africa’, Sociology of Religion 71(1): 30-55.

Clarke, Matthew (ed.). 2013. Handbook of Research on Religion and Development. Edward Elgar.

Lauterbach, Karen. 2014. Religion and Displacement in Africa: Compassion and Sacrifice in Congolese Churches in Kampala, Uganda, Religion & Theology 21 (3-4): 290-308.

Ranger, Terence. 2008. Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Scherz, China. 2014. Having People, Having Heart. The University of Chicago Press.

Spies, Eva, and Paula Schrode. 2021. "Religious engineering: exploring projects of transformation from a relational perspective."  Religion 51 (1):1-18. doi: 10.1080/0048721X.2020.1792053.

Tomalin, Emma (ed.). 2015. The Routledge Handbook of Religions and Global Development. London and New York: Routledge. 

Tomalin, Emma, Jörg Haustein, and Shabaana Kidy. 2019. "Religion and the Sustainable Development Goals."  The Review of Faith & International Affairs 17 (2):102-118. doi: 10.1080/15570274.2019.1608664.

Passed a minimum of 120 ECTS on BA-level

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A written paper on a topic of the student's own choosing comprising 24,000-28,800 characters.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 60
  • English
  • 210


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master
Bachelor choice
Full Degree Master choice
Part Time Master


7 weeks, 2 half of the semester
First lesson is in week 13
Study board of African Studies
Contracting department
  • African Studies
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Theology
Course Coordinator
  • Karen Lauterbach   (3-6f6e704478697370326f7932686f)

Karen Lauterbach

Saved on the 07-02-2022

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