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Unit information: Faith and Development in 2015/16

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Unit name Faith and Development
Unit code POLIM0003
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Reverend. Martin Gainsborough
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Interventions in the name of ‘development’ whether in the global north or the global south suffer from a recurring set of pathologies as rival elites compete with each other, chase after revenue streams, and seek to impose externally derived blueprints on communities, in turn paying little attention to culture or place. The result is that very often a certain violence is committed against the inhabitants. Moreover, while alternative approaches to development have not gained much traction, the system itself seems incapable of reform principally one suspects because it underpins a form of rule where the eradication of developmental problems is not the ultimate goal. This unit seeks to address the problem of development through the lens of political theology exploring whether Christian theology has within itself resources which might help us address some of the difficulties. Through the unit, students will learn about the emergence of political theology and different approaches to it, and will study a range of theologians from St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Stanley Hauerwas. The unit is not about the role of faith-based organisations in development nor about the legitimacy of faith in the public square (or at least not directly). Rather it is concerned with an examination of the ideas of particular theologians in order to see whether they offer any new insights in respect of development.

Unit aims:

  • To reflect deeply on the problem of development and their causes;
  • To gain an understanding of the nature of political theology and specific theologians therein;
  • To take ideas gleaned from political theology and apply them in terms of thinking afresh about the problem of development.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a deeper understanding of the problems of development and their causes;
  2. Critically evaluate the nature of political theology and the ideas of a range of political theologians past and present;
  3. Critically apply theo-political ideas to the problems of development

Teaching details

One two-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

Formative assessment: Seminar presentation

The formative assessment for this unit will be a 15-20 minute individual student oral presentation - one presentation or two, depending on student numbers, per seminar. Students will be asked to deliver their presentation on a pre-assigned topic relevant to the weekly seminar. Students will be required to provide an accompanying powerpoint presentation. The presentation will be followed by up to 10 minutes of questions from the seminar group and the Unit Owner. The presentation topics will be designed so as to require students to address the Intended Learning Outcomes of the unit (see above) relative to the specific topic. Addressing the presentation topics will require students to demonstrate their understanding of development problems and their causes and their ability to apply and critically reflect on theo-political ideas in relation to specific development issues. Students will receive written feedback following their presentation, with an evaluation of the extent and depth to which the presentation indicated an ability to meet the Intended Learning Outcomes relative to the presentation topic. Although separate to the summative essay assignment, the feedback on the presentation will address issues such as argument, structure, content and integration of evidence as attributes directly relevant to essay writing.

Summative assessment: 4000 word essay (100% of the mark)

The summative essay will allow for assessment of students’ ability to meet the Intended Learning Outcomes 1-3, detailed 'above', by requiring them to develop an in-depth essay argument over a length of 4000 words that draws upon relevant readings, materials and debates covered in the unit. The essay questions will be designed so as to require: demonstration of in-'depth understanding of the problems of development and their causes; critical evaluation of the nature of political theology and the ideas of a range of political theologians past and present; and application of theo-political ideas to the problems of development.

Reading and References

Aquinas. Political Writings, trans. and ed. R.W. Dyson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Augustine. City of God, trans. Henry Bettenson (London: Penguin Books, 1972)

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Hauerwas Reader, ed. John Berkman and Michael Cartwright (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001)

Phillips, Elizabeth. Political Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2012)

Scott, Peter and William Cavanaugh. The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006)

Yoder, John Howard. The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1972, and 2nd edn, 1994)