The Mission of Development: Religion and Techno-Politics in Asia CFP deadline 31 of August

The Mission of Development: Religion and Techno-Politics in Asia


Date : 3-4 December 2015
Venue : Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
469A Tower Block, Level 10, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770
Website :


The history of development has recently become a lively and debated field. Recent monographs have begun to re-think the established storyline of development’s sudden invention by American and European powers in the wake of the Second World War to consider development in the longue durée. As part of this new historicizing, and accompanying the reworked timeframes, a new set of actors have come into view. Of these, Christian missions are emerging as particularly important, if also contested. Some argue that development is a child of missionaries drawing direct moral and political sustenance, and also organizational patterns, from earlier extensive missionary activities in education, health, fundraising, and advocacy. Others contest this view. Regardless, it is becoming increasingly clear that an adequate understanding of the rise and operations of development must take into account a range of religious actors that have previously been ignored and sidelined.


This conference seeks to reflect on the key question of what the relationships between mission and development are and how these have changed over time. To what extent have missionaries worked alongside, within, and/or against development? This line of inquiry, however, is complicated by the fact of a porous boundary between mission and development. Varying through space and time, the drawing of the borderline is influenced by diverse social imaginaries, legal and policy mechanisms, and theological/doctrinal discourses justifying and proscribing particular patterns of interaction. Missionary work and development action may at times be subsumed into each other, but they can also be disarticulated and at times even be cast in conflict with each other.


This conference aims to interrogate the complex relationships between Christian mission and international aid and development in Asia (broadly defined). We welcome historical and/or anthropological examinations of detailed case studies involving missionaries and development actors; whether they interact in key sites of negotiation of aspirations — ranging from local projects to the World Council of Churches or the UN­ — or relate to communities and institutions in the course of project implementation. We encourage papers that engage with one or several of the following questions:


  • How have missionary discourses, practices, and imaginations been shaped by development actors and vice-versa?


  • How have missionary and development ethics, as expressed on a global scale as well as by local actors, influenced each other through time? Do development actors continue to inflect (or reject) the missionaries’ moral guidelines? To what extent have missionaries adapted to the age of development, and how have the values emphasized in development discourse marked the formulation of missionary projects?


  • What influence have missionary and development organizational structures had on each other? To what extent have specific organizations or projects been shaped by missionary actors? To what extent have missionaries taken on board development techno-politics or subverted/elided the imperative to render their vocation technical?


  • How and in what ways have the lines between mission and development been drawn and reworked? To what extent does policy at international, national, regional, and organizational levels shape mission/development practices? What disciplinary interventions enable a division to be seen as ordinary (or contested)?


  • What does attending to mission-development dynamics in Asia do for scholarly understandings of development and mission during the long twentieth century?





Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract of 250 words maximum and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 31 August 2015. Attached is a copy of the Call for Papers (CFP) submission form for your reference. Please send your proposals to Ms Valerie Yeo at


Successful applicants will be notified by mid-September and are required to send in a completed draft paper (6,000 – 8,000 words) by 16 November 2015. Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Participants are therefore encouraged to seek fund for travel from their home institutions. Full funding covers air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the conference.





Assoc Prof R. Michael Feener

Asia Research Institute & Department of History, National University of Singapore

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Dr Catherine Scheer

Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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Dr Philip Fountain

Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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Valerie YEO (Ms) :: Management Assistant Officer (Events), Asia Research Institute :: National University of Singapore :: 469A Tower Block, #10-01, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259770 :: + 65 6516 5279 (DID) :: +65 6779 1428 (Fax) :: (E) :: (W) :: Company Registration No: 200604346E

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