Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Religious Studies

First Advisor

Andrea Stanton, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Timothy Sisk

Third Advisor

Jacob Kinnard

Fourth Advisor

Andreas Rechkemmer


Bosnia, Ethnic conflict, Lebanon, Peacebuilding, Religious conflict, Religious violence


While intergroup peace is statistically far more common than is intergroup or inter-religious conflict, there has been a rise in recent years in conflict framed in religious terms. Peace and development practitioners have, in response, become increasingly interested in engaging religion, in various ways, in peace and development work. A theoretical field of religious peacebuilding has emerged simultaneous to this increased practitioner engagement of religion. Despite this increase in religious peacebuilding, at both practical and theoretical levels, we have not seen a measurable increase in social cohesion in contexts plagued by so-called religious conflict, as I show in my comparative examination of case studies in Lebanon and Bosnia-Herzegovina. I argue that this is because the current theoretical approach to religious peacebuilding often views religion as solely ideological and uni-directional in how it relates to conflict and peace (as an independent, rather than a dependent variable in a given conflict setting). This stems from a shallow application of Scott Appleby's ambivalence thesis, which is in and of itself more robust than is often applied, in both theoretical and practical approaches.

I demonstrate in this dissertation that by re-anchoring religious peacebuilding theory in a material theory of religion, both the fields of theory and practice benefit by looking at religion as a more holistic and dynamic conflict variable- one that is shaped by conflict as much as it affects the course or tone of a conflict itself. I argue for an expansion of the ambivalence thesis, as I show that religion is not only ambivalent when it comes to belief or ideology, but it is also ambivalent in the ways in which it seeks to challenge or uphold the status quo in a given situation. This added dimension of ambivalence helps peace and conflict practitioners to engage religion in ways that deal with root cause issues of justice and rights, rather than simply looking at religion through the lens of violence and peace. This theoretical shift thereby makes space for more fruitful approaches to actively engaging religion in peacebuilding practice in particular, intentional ways. Beyond deepening the theoretical field of religious peacebuilding, this shift will also help to refine how international actors engage religion in peacebuilding for years to come, looking toward sustainable social cohesion rather than static peace agreements as the goal for societies in conflict.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Catherine Ruth Orsborn


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

319 p.


Religion, Comparative religion, Peace studies