Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Religious actors as epistemic communities in conflict transformation: the cases of South Africa and Northern Ireland


With the increasing influence of theocrats and other religious actors on policymakers and masses, recognising the agency of the clergy is crucial. This article uses the ‘epistemic communities’ framework to place the religious ‘agents’ in contemporary politics and it shows how hermeneutics can be treated as a form of ‘episteme’. Until recently, this framework has been used to explain how scientific communities affect policymaking. Using the cases of South Africa and Northern Ireland, this article claims that religious actors, especially with their shared set of normative and principled beliefs as well as shared norms of validity, also meet the requirements of the epistemic community category. The employment of this established IR framework in theorising religious politics has the potential to shed light not only on peacebuilding and mediation, but also violent movements and terrorist organisations that use religion as justification.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

David Carment and Patrick James , ‘The International Politics of Ethnic Conflict: New Perspectives on Theory and Policy’, Global Society, 11:2 (1997), pp. 205232

Scott Thomas , ‘Taking Religious and Cultural Pluralism Seriously: The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Society’, Millennium, 29:3 (2000), pp. 815884

Liz Fawcett , Religion, Ethnicity and Social Change (NY: St. Martin's Press, 2000)

Marc Gopin , Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion Can Bring Peace to the Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Frederick A. Olafson , ‘Hermeneutics: “Analytical” and “Dialectical”’, History and Theory, 25:4 (1986), pp. 2842, 28

Clair Gough and Simon Shackley , ‘The Respectable Politics of Climate Change: The Epistemic Communities and NGOs’, International Affairs, 77:2 (2002), pp. 329346

Jeremy Youde , ‘The Development of a Counter-Epistemic Community: AIDS, South Africa, and International Regimes’, International Relations, 19:4 (2005), pp. 421439

Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge , ‘Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 18 (1979), pp. 117133

Nikos Kokoslakis , ‘Legitimation, Power and Religion in Modern Society’, Sociological Analysis, 46:4 (1985), pp. 367376, 371

Ted Jelen , ‘Political Christianity: A Contextual Analysis’, American Journal of Political Science, 36 (1992), pp. 692714

Gerhardus C. Oosthuizen , ‘Christianity's Impact on Race Relations in South Africa’, in Martin Prozesky (ed.), Christianity Amidst Apartheid (NY: St. Martin's Press, 1990)

Rachel Monaghan , ‘Community Based Justice in Northern Ireland and South Africa’, International Community Justice Review, 18:1 (2008), pp. 83105

John D. Brewer , ‘Sectarianism and Racism, and Their Parallels and Differences’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 15:3 (1992), pp. 352364

Rachel McCleary and Robert Barro , ‘Religion and Economy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20:2 (2006), pp. 4972

Laurence Iannaccone , ‘Voodoo Economics? Reviewing the Rational Choice Approach to Religion’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34:1 (1995), pp. 7689

Gladys Ganiel , ‘Ulster Says Maybe: The Restructuring of Evangelical Politics in Northern Ireland’, Irish Political Studies, 21:2 (2006), pp. 137155

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *