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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.

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Nukhet Sandal and Patrick James , ‘Religion and International Relations Theory: Towards a Mutual Understanding’, forthcoming in European Journal of International Relations

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

Steve Bruce , Conservative Protestant Politics (NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 4954

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

Scott Thomas , The Global Resurgence of Religion and the Transformation of International Relations (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 108112

Máiréad N. Craith , Culture and Identity Politics in Northern Ireland (NY: Palgrave, 2003), p. 120

John D. Brewer , C. Wright Mills and the Ending of Violence (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), p. 75

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Review of International Studies
  • ISSN: 0260-2105
  • EISSN: 1469-9044
  • URL: /core/journals/review-of-international-studies
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