Original Research - Special Collection: Engaging Development

African Christianities and the politics of development from below

Afe Adogame
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a4065 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.4065 | © 2016 Afe Adogame | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 September 2016 | Published: 30 November 2016

About the author(s)

Afe Adogame, History Department & Religion and Society Program, Princeton Theological Seminary; Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, United States


Religion and development are two ambiguous phenomena, yet we can map their creative interaction and intricate interconnectedness. In public discourse, ideas about development generally undermine the complex role of religion, or it is assumed that religion would be relegated to a matter of private belief in Africa, as secular states burgeoned, or even saw religion as an obstacle to development. Development was largely conceived of primarily in economic terms or as economic development. In contemporary era, the concept of human development has come into vogue, accentuating aspects of people’s lives that go beyond the economic dimension. There is no gainsaying in the fact that religion has been a dynamic entity and remains a growing force in public life in Africa. This article critiques vague definitions of religion and development and contends that human development should be understood as including the religious and spiritual dimension of life. Drawing upon concrete examples from my religious ethnography, the article seeks to explore the ambivalent role of religion in Africa’s development, and Africa’s development within the purview of the everyday lived religious and spiritual dimensions of life.


African Christianities; Politics; Development; Public discourse; HIV; Drugs; Abuse


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