The World Bank and Faith Institutions
Chapter 1: The Discourses of Religion in International Politics
1. The discourses of religion in international politics We should never have known by what process truth is to be ascertained, if we had not previously ascertained many truths. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (VIII, p. 833) In Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children the character Aadam Aziz is described as a man who was ‘knocked forever into that middle place, unable to worship a God in whose existence he could not wholly disbelieve’ (Rushdie, 1982, p. 12). Aziz journeyed from belief to unbelief yet ended in a psychological state somewhere in-between. This narrative serves as a metaphor about the study of religion in world politics. For IR scholars the journey has been taken in the opposite direction but the destination is the same: having emerged from securalist thought in the social sciences the contemporary resurgence of religion in world politics has knocked the discipline into a middle place where one cannot easily or quickly judge where the value and limits of religion lie. On the question of religious agency in world politics there now exist conceptual ambiguities and empirical realities that can seemingly no longer be denied. Yet despite the rise of religion as an object of analysis in IR, the terms of religion – the actors, communities, concepts and agendas that bring religion into the domain of world politics – are yet to be settled in the nomenclature of the discipline. Scholarship is therefore now moving into a new exploratory phase attempting to discover both the possibilities and limitations that religion...
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