Handbook of Research on NGOs
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Handbook of Research on NGOs

Edited by Aynsley Kellow and Hannah Murphy-Gregory

This volume provides a critical overview of research on Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs). While it notes that the definition of NGOs is contested, and can include both business and national groups, it focuses primarily on international NGOs engaged with human rights, social and environmental concerns, and aid and development issues. With contributions by Peter Willetts, Tom Davies, Bob Reinalda and other leading scholars, it provides a series of critical essays on both general aspects of NGOs and significant issues of particular concern.
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Chapter 20: NGOs and religion: instrumentalisation and its discontents

Philip Fountain and Marie Juul Petersen


The relationship between NGOs and religion is of pivotal importance for understanding NGOs as such. Research that fails to attend to issues of religion neglects crucial features of NGO history and practice. While the recent ‘religious turn’ in development studies has helped rectify a historical neglect, this new literature has been dominated by instrumentalist frameworks and static conceptualisations of what ‘religion’ is and does. This chapter argues that historical and ethnographic methodologies can provide more nuanced understandings of the complex entanglements between NGOs and religion. Through textured and detailed analysis of particular cases, such approaches can facilitate greater attention to diversity and dynamism among ‘religious NGOs’ and ‘faith-based organisations’. We also argue for the use of these same methodologies to better understand how religious traditions are being reshaped by NGOs and their activities, as well as how secularity is experienced within ‘secular NGOs’.

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