Revisiting Religion: Development Studies Thirty Years On


This paper re-assesses the treatment of religion in development studies 30 years after the publication of a special issue of World Development on “Religion and Development”. Given the changes in the social and political context, consideration of the subject of religion can no longer be avoided. The paper identifies two implications of this for development studies. First, the assumptions of secularization and secularism that supposedly define the relationships between religion, society, and politics have to be revisited. Second, development studies must recognize that religion is dynamic and heterogeneous. Both development studies and religion are concerned with the meaning of “progress” or a “better life,” implying that attention has to be given to social and historical processes of meaning creation, requiring a shift from positivist to interpretivist research methods. The paper concludes by looking at how consideration of religion is transforming development studies.


Deneulin, S.; Rakodi, C. Revisiting Religion: Development Studies Thirty Years On. World Development (2011) 39 (1) 45-54. [DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2010.05.007]

Published 1 January 2011