Faith-Based Charity and the Security State: Containing People and Finance in Risk Societies

Advanced Seminar chair Erica Caple James, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, MIT

Colloquium, SAR Boardroom

Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 12:00–1:00 pm, Free

This talk will provide an overview of an advanced seminar that is exploring the ways in which faith-based humanitarian activities challenge notions of secularism, as well as conceptions of risk and security, in historical and cross-cultural contexts. Whereas religiously-inspired organizations have managed and provided support to marginal populations on behalf of government in the modern West, in some contemporary circumstances the work of faith-based nonprofits has been viewed as a threat to the sovereignty and security of the nation-state and to civil society. The seminar seeks to expand scholarly examination of the practice of religious philanthropy and the so-called “wall of separation between church and state.” In so doing, the papers presented raise questions about the slippages between compassionate and repressive “pastoral power,” the many meanings of “asylum,” and contested definitions of “security” in societies coping with ontological risks.

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