• Welcome. I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. My primary research interests concern religion, democratization and democratic backsliding in sub-Saharan Africa. My book manuscript, Deus ex Machina? The Politics of New Religious Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa, offers new theory to explain why Pentecostal Christianity has emerged as a highly politicized identity in some sub-Saharan states in recent decades but not others. I test this theory using both cross and sub-national data, which includes qualitative and quantitative databases that I compiled in Zambia (2011-2017). I have also conducted research on the political economy of development and social policy in cross-national perspective. For more detail, please see my C.V.


    New article in Political Behavior (May, 2022): Sperber, Elizabeth, O’Brien Kaaba, and Gwyneth McClendon. "Increasing Youth Political Engagement with Efficacy Not Obligation: Evidence from a Workshop-Based Experiment in Zambia." Political behavior (2022): 1-26.

    Working paper on latest community-engaged study on youth civic engagement in Zambia here.

    Paper published in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies peer-reviewed Working Paper Series: "Estimating the Effect of Christian Messages on Civic Engagement" (April 2021, with Kaaba and McClendon)

    Ted G. Jelen Award for the best article published in Politics and Religion in 2018. Ungated copy of article (coauthored with Erin Hern) available here.

    Awarded a Visiting Fellowship from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame for Winter and Spring quarters, 2020.


  • Education

  • PhD, MPh, MA, Columbia University (2016)

    • Recipient of Doria Award

    BA, Brown University (2006)

    • Highest Honors, recipient of Ida B. Wells Award
  • Contact

  • Email: Elizabeth[dot]Sperber[at]DU.edu
    Office: Sturm Hall, Room 471
    2000 E. Asbury Ave.
    Denver, CO 80208 
  • Lusaka, Zambia, 2013. Research assistant, Mr. Lungu, helps construct databases from government records. 

  • Rakai District, Uganda, 2010. Pictured here with research assistants on a predissertation study.

  • Partisan Evangelical Christian organization campaigns for incumbent Presidential candidate a month before Zambia's controversial 2016 election. Photo credit: Lusaka Times, 7/27/16.

This portfolio last updated: 16-May-2022 12:06 PM