The Religious Factor in African Politics: Where, How and Why Religion Matters
The Globalization Research Center-Africa presents Robert Dowd, University of Notre Dame, discussing the impact of religion on African politics.
Friday, June 09, 2006
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
10383 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095
In sub-Saharan Africa there is reason to believe that more people spend more time engaged in religious activities than in any other region of the world. We cannot help but wonder what effect, if any, such widespread religious involvement is having on political culture in the region. Is religion promoting or impeding broader civic engagement, tolerance of ethnic or religious others, and support for political rights and civil liberties? This paper is devoted to exploring where, how and why Christianity, Islam and new religious movements are affecting political culture in sub-Saharan Africa. I find that there is considerable variation within Christianity, Islam and new religious movements and that such variation is explained to a remarkable degree by poverty and religious pluralism. Religion may be most important among people who are poor, but religion is not necessarily more likely to impede civic engagement, and promote extremism or intolerance among the poor. Instead, the extent to which a setting is religiously plural is key to explaining how religion affects political culture. Religious pluralism, rather than increasing the likelihood that religion will promote extremism and intolerance, increases the likelihood that Christianity, Islam and new religious movements play a powerful role in promoting civic engagement, tolerance, and support for political rights and civil liberties.
Robert Dowd is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Fellow of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He began study of African politics at UCLA through the James S. Coleman African Studies Center during the late 1990s. He received his PhD in political science from UCLA in 2003. He has written a number of articles on religion and politics and on parties and party systems, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, he is completing a book manuscript entitled, “Christianity, Islam and Political Culture: Sub-Saharan Africa in Comparative Perspective”. Dowd will spend the next year participating in the Spiritual Capital Research Project, supported by the John Templeton Foundation. Dowd’s project entails a survey of Christians and Muslims in Uganda, Nigeria and Senegal. The study is devoted to discerning the effects of religious involvement on interpersonal trust, political interest, work habits and national identity.
Cost: Free and open to the public; parkingn is available in lot 3 for $8.