School of History, Religions and Philosophies, Department of Religions and Philosophies, Centre of World Christianity & Department of Development Studies

Dr Romina Istratii

Key information

Roles
Department of Religions and Philosophies UKRI Future Leaders Fellow Centre of World Christianity Research Associate Department of Development Studies Research Associate
Qualifications
BA Politics, Chinese, Economics (Bates College, USA), MA Gender and Development (IDS-University of Sussex, UK), PhD (SOAS)
Building
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office
333
Email address
ri5@soas.ac.uk
Support hours
By appointment

Biography

Dr Romina Istratii is UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the School of History, Religions and Philosophies. She is Honorary Research Associate to the Department of Development Studies and the Centre of World Christianity at SOAS. Previously she served as Senior Teaching Fellow in Religions and Development.

Dr Istratii is a critical researcher and practitioner from Eastern Europe with ten years' experience in the sector of international development. Her work focuses on developing cosmology-sensitive and people-centred methodologies and approaches for analysing and addressing issues with gender dimensions in religious societies of Africa, Asia and other regions of the world. She has previously conducted independent fieldwork in Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Senegal with the support of various funders that include the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Tokyo Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and UKRI.

In 2018, Dr Istratii completed a three-year PhD study at SOAS that applied a critical lens to mainstream gender and development theories and approaches and proposed a decolonial engagement with contexts and societies that fall outside of Anglo-American epistemology and historical experience. It demonstrated the urgency and appropriateness for such an approach through a historiographical, theological, ethnographic and participatory study of conjugal abuse realities and attitudes in the Ethiopian Orthodox Täwahәdo community of Aksum city and the surrounding countryside. Dr Istratii’s research and approach is presented in her monograph Adapting Gender and Development to Local Religious Contexts: A Decolonial Approach to Domestic Violence in Ethiopia.

Dr Istratii specialises in Eastern Orthodox and pre-Chalcedonian (also known as ‘Oriental Orthodox’) Christian Churches and traditions and is particularly versed in Orthodox theology of gender, marriage and the conjugal relationship. Her work explores the resourcefulness of religious discourse and faith in addressing contemporary gender-related issues in Orthodox and Miaphysite Christian societies. She edits with the support of theology students in Addis Ababa an Amharic webpage on Orthodox Dogmatics. Previously, she also conducted gender-related research with Muslim communities in Africa and is involved with inter-faith initiatives in the UK.

Dr Istratii’s research in Ethiopia has evolved into the research project “Religion, conscience and abusive behaviour: Understanding the role of faith and spirituality in the deterrence of intimate partner violence in rural Ethiopia” funded by the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation in 2019. Dr Istratii is also Principal Investigator of the UKRI-funded research and innovation project “Bridging religious studies, gender & development and public health to address domestic violence: A novel approach for Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK” awarded in 2020. The project is dedicated to the development and strengthening of religio-culturally sensitive domestic violence alleviation systems in Ethiopia, Eritrea and the UK.

Work on decolonising knowledge production and research

Dr Istratii has been actively engaged in the effort to decentre Anglo-American epistemology from the domain of knowledge production and to bridge scientific research with lived experiences and societal issues. She is committed to raising awareness about on-going epistemological inequalities and to exposing the global matrix that perpetuates these, from funding and research development structures and norms to publications and dissemination models and individual research attitudes.

Since 2016, she has been an active member of the  Decolonising SOAS Working Group. Between 2018-2019, she served as SOAS’s Research Funding Officer, in which role she initiated the Decolonising Research Initiative (together with Dr Alex Lewis).  In 2020, she acted as SOAS’s GCRF Project Officer, completing an internal review of SOAS’s research development processes to promote more reflexive practices in collaborative research with partners in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. She also co-coordinated the SOAS-OXFORD Research for Development (R4D) Series,  which aimed to change the narrative around development research and to encourage ethical, reflexive and dialogical research practices internationally.

Dr Istratii is co-founder of Decolonial Subversions (together with Monika Hirmer), an open access, multilingual, peer reviewed publishing platform that aims to subvert western epistemology and to contribute to the diversification of knowledge production. In 2020, she hosted on behalf of Decolonial Subversions the series “UNCENSORED CONVERSATIONS: Promoting Open and Critical Discussion about COVID-19 and its Consequences”, which explored the more critical social scientific, philosophical and ethical questions emerging in the public health crisis and its handling by different governments across the world.

Research interests

Dr. Istratii’s research interests are interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary, engaging development,
gender and religious studies. More specific areas of study/topics include:

  • The decentring of Anglo-American epistemology in gender, religious and development studies
  • The exposure of western feminist and gender metaphysics and ethical objections to their transposition cross-culturally
  • The integration of religious knowledge and belief systems in development theory and practice
  • The understanding and alleviation of intimate partner violence in Eastern Orthodox and Miaphysite Christian communities and other religious societies
  • The scoping and understanding of Eastern Orthodox and Miaphysite Christian missionaries and missionary NGOs and their approaches to community engagement
  • The study and deterrence of secular and religious radicalisation and violence globally

Dr. Istratii has previously provided consultancy and research support to academic and professional employers in the USA and Europe on a wide range of areas and topics, such as international development funding, gender and development, religions and development, violence and conflict resolution, public health, agricultural economics and nutrition and emerging economies. She is open for consultation on all these subject areas. She is also available for delivering reflexive trainings on gender, development and religions, conflict resolution and international cooperation to diplomatic missions, political leaders and other interested parties.

Publications

Contact Romina