Patron Saints? How African Ruling Parties Cultivate New Christian Constituencies

Elizabeth Sperber

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.

Speakers / Related People
Elizabeth Sperber

This profile was current as of 2020, when she was part of the on-campus Kellogg community. Elizabeth Sperber is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Denver who studies religion and democratization with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Her primary research interests include new Christian movements in African politics, the political economy of development, and mixed methods research design...
Read More