A lecture by Elizabeth Sperber, assistant professor of political science at the University of Denver. Since the end of the Cold War, Pentecostal Christianity has emerged as a politically salient identity in some sub-Saharan states, but not others. This paper offers new theory and evidence to help explain why. Sperber argues that African ruling parties have played critical but understudied roles in facilitating the growth and politicization of new Pentecostal constituencies. Their incentive to do so derives in part from prior pro-democratic mobilization of their national Catholic or mainline Protestant churches. Her research combines a novel cross-national empirical strategy with analysis of original data from Zambia and finds strong support for the argument. It also illuminates how greater integration of research on African cases advances the study of the political economy of religion more broadly: Whereas extant theory assumes that government intervention in the religious sphere reduces religious competition, this paper identifies conditions under which governments face incentives to increase religious competition within their borders.
Sponsored by the Kellogg Institute.
Originally published at conductorshare.nd.edu.