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Research Seminar | Power and conviction: Political dimensions of Christian missionary activity in Africa

Friday March 31, 2023, from 13:45 to 15:15
Room TBC
Research seminar

Borge Wietzke (IBEI). ChairEmre Amasyali (IBEI)

The talk introduces a forthcoming book in the Cambridge Elements series. The book engages with recent attempts by economists and political scientists to provide more rigorous estimates of the impacts of missionary work in sub-Saharan Africa. It argues that, although these efforts contribute to more accurate assessments of the ‘true’ effects of missionary presence, they also often have a tendency to present Christian involvement in the region as a largely apolitical and mechanical process, that was relatively unaffected by the rapidly evolving geopolitical and socio-cultural contexts of the early colonial era. Countering this trend, the book illustrates aspects of missionary behavior that were inherently more political and context-dependent, such as local struggles for religious hegemony of rival Protestant and Catholic factions or interactions between colonial regime contexts and the church-based provision of public services like education. The manuscript draws heavily on market-based theories of organized religious behavior. The latter perspectives are entirely compatible with the conceptual and analytical toolkits now widely used by economists and political scientists studying missionary work. Yet, they have played surprisingly limited roles in recent literature.

Borge Wietzke is an Assistant Professor at IBEI. Originally trained as a political scientist (University of Leipzig and Science Po Paris), he has a PhD in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. Borge also has extensive policy experience with the World Bank, the United Nations (Unicef) and national governments, where he has held staff and consulting positons in areas related to program evaluation, social protection, decentralization, and development finance.

During the course 2022-23, IBEI has organised a series of research seminars, which normally take place once a week. Check the 2022-23 programme