Engaging development and religion: Methodological groundings

Severine Deneulin, Augusto Zampini Davies

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Religion is no longer a neglected dimension in development studies. Not only has the literature on religion and development blossomed over the last decade, but partnerships between international development institutions and faith communities have also multiplied. Yet, little is said about how such engagement is to take place beyond reference to general principles, and beyond the instrumental use of religion for achieving pre-determined international development goals. The aim of the paper is to propose some methodological grounding for engaging development and religion at the normative level. It does so on the basis of Amartya Sen’s capability approach and Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home. Although the latter is written by the global Catholic leader, it is addressed to every human being and urges a redefinition of the meaning of development. Our paper argues that the encyclical contains a potentially fruitful methodological proposal for engaging development and religion. We analyse how such a methodology has been applied in an exercise by the UK Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) to facilitate a global dialogue on development and religion in different geographical contexts. After addressing some of the limits of the methodology of Laudato Si’, we examine how Sen’s normative conceptualisation of development and methodological proposal towards dialogue and reason about values – including religious ones – could complement some religious approaches and methodologies, such as in Laudato Si’, to yield innovative proposals for engaging development and religion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-121
Number of pages12
JournalWorld Development
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


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