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Governing Gifts

Faith, Charity, and the Security State

Edited by Erica Caple James

How do faith-based charity and secular statecraft intersect? What are the connections among piety, philanthropy, policy, and policing? Rather than attempting to delimit “faith-based aid” or reifying the concept of the state, contributors to this volume seek to understand how faith and organized religious charity can be mobilized—at times on behalf of the state—to govern populations and their practices. In exploring this relationship, the volume contributes to discussions of the boundaries between public and private realms and to studies on the resurgence of religion in politics and public policy. The contributors demonstrate how the borders between faith-based and secular domains of governance cannot be clearly defined. Ultimately, the book aims to expand the parameters of what has typically been a US-centric discussion of faith-based interventions as it explores the concepts of faith, charity, security, and governance from a global perspective.

2019. 272 pp., 6 x 9, 4 figs.

Editor: Erica Caple James

Contributors: Maurizio Albahari, Mona Atia, Catherine Besteman, Elisabeth S. Clemens, Chris Garces, C. Julia Huang, Arzoo Osanloo, Daromir Rudnyckyj, Sarah A. Tobin

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“As James explains in her comprehensive introduction, the impressive breadth of this project is meant to expand the conversation beyond naive Americentrism—and it certainly works. The attention paid in this collection to so many ‘nations that have not historically presumed a separation of church and state or their existence as distinct institutions’ marks the work of James and her contributors as worthwhile for any scholar looking for an expansive treatment of these themes beyond the United States (13). . . . All told, Governing Gifts is a valuable collection—one that will prove insightful for both those who envision a robust role for faith-based charity in the public sphere, and those who labor to understand its effects (political, economic, and strategic) more broadly. If, as James asserts in her epilogue, ‘faith-based interventions render state processes visible’ (219), then such visibility ought to engender more comprehensive analyses of the ways that religious giving simultaneously reinforces, challenges, administers, and is complicated by the myriad designs of the security state. For those (like myself) just entering this conversation, Governing Gifts is a great place to start.”
—Troy Mikanovich, Claremont Graduate University, Reading Religion, April 24, 2020

Governing Gifts breaks new ground regarding the power of the gift and ‘faith-based nonprofits as agents or surrogates for governmental action’ (13). The contributions—a vivid mosaic of cases from nearly a dozen sites worldwide—illustrate how faith-based charity emulates aspects of state services but also poses challenges for its governance.”
—Christopher B. Taylor, George Mason University, American Ethnologist, August 2020


Chapter One. Introduction: The Varieties of Religious Governance
Erica Caple James

Chapter Two. A Believing and Benevolent Nation: Religious Mobilization as Infrastructural Power in American Political Development
Elisabeth S. Clemens

Chapter Three. The End(s) of Compassion? Buddhist Charity and the State in Taiwan
C. Julia Huang

Chapter Four. Subjecting the State to Seeing: Charity, Security, and the Dispossessed in Iran’s Islamic Republic
Arzoo Osanloo

Chapter Five. Prisons of Charity: Christian Exceptionality and Decarceration in Ecuador’s Penal State
Chris Garces

Chapter Six. “We haven’t risked our life for food and shelter”: Mediterranean Migrations, Contentious Charity, and Justice
Maurizio Albahari

Chapter Seven. Hostile Charity: Somali Refugees and Risk in a New Security Age
Catherine Besteman

Chapter Eight. Policing Philanthropy and Criminalizing Charity in the “War on Terror”
Erica Caple James

Chapter Nine. Prophets and Profits: The Jordanian Government’s Strategies for Defining and Containing Risk in Volatile Times
Sarah A. Tobin

Chapter Ten. Islamic Charities, Calculative Regimes, and the Promotion of Entrepreneurial Subjects in Egypt
Mona Atia

Chapter Eleven. Neoliberal Faith: Risk and the Representation of Death in Indonesia
Daromir Rudnyckyj

Chapter Twelve. Epilogue: Faith-Based Charity and Neomodern Statecraft
Erica Caple James