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Proselytisation in practice: Situating contemporary Christian missionaries in development studies

Smith, Jonathan D (2019) Proselytisation in practice: Situating contemporary Christian missionaries in development studies. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Christian missionaries share a lengthy and entangled history with development actors. Renewed interest in the study of religion and development has largely overlooked missionaries. For many development scholars, missionaries are viewed as largely irrelevant, or as actors working in a parallel space to other development actors. Others identify missionaries as problematic development actors because they proselytise in a manner that distinguishes them from other faith-based development organisations. A few scholars argue that missionaries can be studied alongside other development actors, and they propose that missionary approaches to development could provide insights about issues which development actors face, such as proselytisation. This thesis presents an empirical study of contemporary Christian missionaries who participate in both evangelism and development work. By situating this group in a specific socio-cultural context and exploring ethical challenges posed by their work, this thesis demonstrates one way in which research on contemporary Christian missionaries can be situated in development studies. It explores areas of contestation and diversity through respondents’ reflections on proselytisation in the practice of mission and relief/development, by examining their beliefs, aims, approaches and practices. In so doing, this thesis presents a conception of proselytisation as an analytical framework to explore the ethical use of intervening power by both missionaries and development actors. Thesis findings suggest that this analytical framework could broaden ideas of proselytisation beyond de-contextualised practices to a wider examination of beliefs, aims and approaches to development interventions. It should be contextually-driven, which requires internal criticism within development institutions, close listening to the need and priorities of others, cultivating contextual awareness and voluntary limiting of power. Examining proselytisation in practice can enable more accurate analysis of development projects and provide new opportunities to analyse, challenge and possibly change coercive practices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: development studies, faith-based organisations, humanitarianism
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Depositing User: Jonathan D Smith
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2020 16:37
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2020 16:37
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/25550

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