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Title: Divine polity : the Baha'i international community and the United Nations
Author: Berger, Julia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 2481
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis argues that in order to understand more fully the engagement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the United Nations-specifically NGOs that express a religious or faith-based commitment-we must consider both their actions and the rationale behind them, the what as well as the why. To study the underlying rationale, the thesis introduces the concept of the organizational substrate, which offers a new analytical tool to draw out this undertheorized dimension of religious NGOs (Chapter 2). The substrate complements the analytical tools currently deployed by social scientists and goes beyond descriptions of organizational behavior to examine the internal rationale underpinning the behavior. The internal rationale is explored through a focused analysis of the Bahá'í International Community's United Nations Office (BIC). This organization is selected because of its reputation as a valued and effective contributor in UN fora; its seventy-year history of engagement (1945-2015); and its scriptural engagement with questions of politics and world order. The thesis also contributes to the nascent scholarship about UN-accredited religious NGOs outside of the Christian tradition. Having identified the constitutive elements of the BIC's organizational substrate, using a hermeneutic and historical approach, the thesis develops a distinct periodization of the BIC's engagement from 1945-2015. The periodization provides a historical framework (though not a historical analysis) for examining the manner in which the substrate shapes action across different historical circumstances. Each of the four historical periods offers evidence of the salience of the organizational substrate for understanding the operation of the NGO. The first period, 1945-1970 (Chapter 3) enables us to see the manner in which the substrate frames the BIC's rationale for engagement with the UN and its understanding of the UN in the context of the broader processes of civilizational, social and political evolution. In the second period, 1970-1986 (Chapter 4), the thesis demonstrates the pivotal role of Bahá'í authoritative structures in articulating, elucidating, and socializing the substrate of the organization. Between 1986 and 2008 (Chapter 5), the substrate-based analysis reveals a distinct epistemology and methodology-associated with the conception and pursuit of peace. During the final period, 2008-2015 (Chapter 6), the substrate undergirds the shift to an explicitly discursive, organic approach to engagement in UN processes, and a reconceptualization of the terms of engagement with the UN. This thesis goes beyond social scientific approaches to the study of religious actors at the UN, to demonstrate that knowledge and action require understanding of the distinct rationality of each NGO. It is by identifying and observing the operation of the organizational substrate that this pivotal and foundational element of NGO engagement at the UN comes to light.
Supervisor: Carrette, Jeremy ; Frazier, Jessica Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BL Religion ; D901 Europe (General) ; J Political Science ; JZ International relations