Conflict sensitivity and religious associations : an action research journey in Southeast Asia

Garred, Michelle and Cochrane, Feargal (2011) Conflict sensitivity and religious associations : an action research journey in Southeast Asia. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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The associational sector has gained recent prominence, and scholars increasingly recognize the dualistic potential of civil society and social capital to promote either peace or violence. However, research to date gives little attention to the large proportion of associations that influence conflict unintentionally, as an externality produced during the pursuit of other goals. This emergent cluster of theory, which centers on the work of Robert Putnam and Ashutosh Varshney, tends to generalize the nature and causes of such externalities in ways that overlook associational complexity and dynamism. Therefore this thesis explores the applicability of conflict sensitivity, an organizational planning approach that originated in the humanitarian aid sector, for understanding and improving the social impact of religious associations in conflict-vulnerable multifaith societies. The author undertook action research with two local interfaith associations in Mindanao and Singapore to test the usage of the ‘Do No Harm’ conflict sensitivity framework among religious audiences in settings of ethno-religious conflict. More than 160 Protestant, Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders contributed empirically through participatory social analysis, surveys and interviews. The study finds that ‘Do No Harm’ holds relevance and usefulness for religious associations, yet it requires conceptual and practical adaptation of its impact analysis components. Further, while the data support the importance in existing theory of bridging or intercommunal associational structures, there is strong evidence that individual mindsets and intentional human agency are equally central in shaping associational impact. Further, the public prominence of religion in Southeast Asia contrasts with Western-influenced liberal democratic assumptions, exposing a ‘religion gap’ in existing associational theory. Religious culture is shown to be a major influence shaping the formation and incipient change of group identities through associational life. Thus it is argued that wherever religion plays a public role, it should be consistently integrated into studies of associational social impact.

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Thesis (PhD)
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19 Oct 2011 08:19
Last Modified:
25 Feb 2024 00:23