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2014/02/17 @ 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Date:9-10 October 2014
Venue:Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore


Is charity altruistic or egoistically motivated? Are there ethical and unethical religious giving? Is there anything specifically ‘Asian’ about particular conceptions of ethical giving? What are our alternatives to thinking through such issues beyond simple

Religious groups and individuals have been providing goods and services for the poor and needy throughout history and across the globe. Though most religious doctrines teach caring for the underprivileged, the actual practices and perceptions of what is considered ‘proper’ kinds of giving, and the precautions prospective recipients have to take against possible harm, vary considerably across time and traditions. This international and interdisciplinary conference is designed to explore the ethics of religious giving in Asian contexts, historically and ethnographically. With the term ‘ethics’ we refer here to both an accepted system of codes of conduct and the Durkheimian sense of “means to achieve social cohesion.” The term ‘religious giving’ is used to indicate broadly any kind of gifts/services that are delivered by religious individuals, communities or institutions in order to serve the material and emotional needs of people who are not close kin. The wider goal of the conference is to explore diverse configurations of conceptions of reciprocity, as well as, the relationship between ideas (ethics) and action (giving). This conference will bring together scholars from across the region and the world to engage in discussions of these issues, drawing on material from detailed case studies. These explorations of what people actually do and think on the ground are intended to contribute both empirically and theoretically to the understanding of religion and development in Asian societies.

The objectives of this conference are:
* to bring the thorny issue of ethics to the foreground of the conversation on Religion and Development in Asia

* to examine historically and ethnographically the ethical dilemmas and decisions in the everyday lives of people involved in religious charity and philanthropy to map the circulation of ideas and practices of religious charity across diverse geographical areas and among different religious or secular traditions in Asia

We invite original research papers that ask the following questions:
– What are the gifts and services that are being delivered by different religious groups and individuals? What determines who are the needy and what kind of services are most desirable?

– What constitutes ‘ethical giving’? How do different religions and denominations vary in their understanding of poverty/need/underdevelopment and practice of giving due to
theological concerns and/or distinctive roles in multifarious socio-political systems?

– How do the donors and recipients respond to particular forms of religious giving? How do the religious groups deal with the consequences of such ethical issue?

– Has the involvement on the giving or receiving end made people more prone to conversion to certain religions? How do we understand the ethics of those conversions?

– What do religious individuals and groups gain or lose during this process? Is there a rise of universal humanitarianism replacing the traditional moral values that are in the territory of religious organizations?

Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract of 350 words maximum and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 9 March 2014. Please send all proposals to Dr Wu Keping at ariwk@nus.edu.sg. For a copy of the submission form, click here.

Successful applicants will be notified by 9 April and are required to send in a completed draft paper (5,000 – 8,000 words) by 9 September. Based on the quality of proposals and availability of funds, partial or full funding will be granted to successful applicants. Participants are therefore encouraged to seek fund for travel from their home
institutions. Full funding covers air travel to Singapore by the most economical means, plus board and lodging for the duration of the conference.


Dr WU Keping
Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Assoc Prof Michael FEENER
Asia Research Institute, and Department of History,
National University of Singapore


8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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National University of Singapore
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