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

Abstract
Abstract

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.

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34 Johnston and Cox, Faith-based Diplomacy, p. 14 .

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37 Kyoto Conference Proceedings (1973).

38 Nardin Terry, Law, Morality, and the Relations of States (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984) .

39 Although this phenomenon is not investigated in this article, it is plausible to state that there are ‘religious communities’ which define their identities primarily against ‘non-believers’ as opposed to believers in other traditions. This kind of ‘othering’ might make cross-traditional understanding easier, but has also the potential to cause conflicts between the Westphalian state and the religious segments of societies.

40 See Nukhet A. Sandal, ‘Clash of Public Theologies? Rethinking the Concept of Religion in Politics’, forthcoming in Alternatives.

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45 See Johnston, The Churches and Apartheid.

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49 Despite the employment of theology and religious credentials in the process, the counter-Apartheid epistemic community in South Africa cannot be equated with the profession of priesthood. The religious epistemic communities in general may include academics, religion based NGOs and even educated members of congregations who participate actively in the creation of public theologies.

50 Appleby Scott, The Ambivalence of the Sacred: Religion, Violence and Reconciliation (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) .

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52 Statement quoted in Gruchy John de and Villa-Vicencio Charles (eds), Apartheid is a Heresy (Cape Town: David Philip, 1983) .

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57 See Hayden Tom, ‘Northern Ireland, South Africa in Secret Peace Talks’, The Nation (28 September 2007) .

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

61 Bell J. Bowyer, The Secret Army: The IRA (Edison, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997), p. 340 .

62 English, Irish Freedom, pp. 368382 .

63 Rafferty Oliver, Catholicism in Ulster 1603–1983: An Interpretative History (London: Hurst Publications, 1994), p. 270 .

64 Finke Roger and Stark Rodney, The Churching of America, 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in our Religious Economy (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992) ; McCleary Rachel and Barro Robert, ‘Religion and Economy’, Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20:2 (2006), pp. 4972 ; Iannaccone Laurence, ‘Voodoo Economics? Reviewing the Rational Choice Approach to Religion’, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 34:1 (1995), pp. 7689 .

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71 Appleby, The Ambivalence of the Sacred.

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75 Power, From Ecumenism, pp. 101, 200 .

76 McCreary, In War and Peace, p. 241 .

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

78 Tom Hayden, ‘Northern Ireland’.

* I am grateful to Emanuel Adler, Laurie Brand, Mai'a Davis-Cross, Jonathan Fox, Thomas Goodnight, Jeffrey Haynes, Patrick James, Michael Kennedy, Neophytos Loizides, Daniel Philpott and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on the earlier versions of this article.

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Review of International Studies
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