Rachel Beatty RiedlRachel Beatty Riedl

Assistant Professor of Political Science
Northwestern University
Former Kellogg Institute Visiting Fellow

Religious Organization and Political Party Interaction in Sub-Saharan Africa

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
12:30pm – C103 Hesburgh Center

When and why do religious actors engage with political parties?   In what varied ways do they pursue their political agendas vis-à-vis party competition, and to what effect?

These are some of the core questions that can govern cross-national analysis of political parties and religious groups, contributing to a broader analysis of identity politics and mobilization.  Building from literature about the interaction of ethnicity and political party strategy and competition, this research assesses the demand and supply side of religious actors’ contributions to political party organization and strategies for competition in new democracies across Sub-Saharan Africa.

The project demonstrates that religious organizations engage with political parties in ways that are not specific only to a particular religious denomination’s ideology or internal hierarchy. Rather, religious groups react in similar ways in each national political context, as they respond to a given political opportunity structure.  The research links to the literature on collective action to understand when and why religious communities use their resources—communications, materials, and beliefs—in pursuit of political goals.

Methodologically the paper draws from the author’s newly constructed dataset of African newspapers reporting on religious activities and presents interview and survey data comparing religious interaction with political parties in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Rachel Beatty Riedl is assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University. With research interests that include institutional development in new democracies, local governance and decentralization policy, and authoritarian regime legacies, her current research explores why democratization in Africa has produced such a varied array of representative institutions and political structures by focusing on the causes of variation in party system institutionalization.

A former visiting fellow at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a post-doctoral research associate at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Riedl edited Bridging Disciplines, Spanning the Word: Approaches to Inequalities, Institutions, and Identities (Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies Monograph Series, 2006) with Sada Aksartova and Kirstine Mitchell.