Dr Nicola de Jager, a senior lecturer in the Political Science Department, was recently selected as one of 13 African scholars to be awarded the prestigious Africa Oxford Initiative Fellowship (AfOx) from The University of Oxford. De Jager, along with another Stellenbosch University (SU) academic, Dr Tongai Maponga from the Division of Medical Virology, form part of the 13 fellows selected from 12 institutions from seven African countries out of the 450 applications received.
De Jager is also one of four academics from the social sciences to be selected for the fellowship.
The fellowship was “set up to foster research and teaching excellence” and to “facilitate sustainable collaborations between academics at The University of Oxford and at African institutions”. All costs related to the fellows research visit to Oxford are covered by the fellowship, which also includes residency at the Oxford Colleges. De Jager will be hosted at Brasenose College.
“It is amazing to be able to take up this fellowship at The University of Oxford. An opportunity for which I am very grateful,” says De Jager.
“For the last couple of years I have focused on gaining exposure to research and academics at different institutions as it is really important to not have a parochial outlook when it comes to research. By participating in fellowships like these, I am able visit other institutions and meet other academics and learn about their research and this is very important in enhancing my own research and international standing.”
De Jager, who was nominated for the fellowship by Prof Laurence Whitehead, a leading expert in democracy studies, will spend close to six weeks at Oxford from 5 August to 14 September working on research focused on Protestantism and civic engagement: Implications for democratic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The research I have been working on has focused on the influence of religion on politics. We have found that while the importance of religion in Europe is declining, it is becoming increasingly more important in Africa.”
“The global distribution of Christians is expected to change by 2050, with the largest proportion of Christians – more than a billion – to reside in sub-Saharan Africa by this time,” explains De Jager.
“As of 2017 Africa was home to 41% of all Protestants, with the projection that by 2050, 53% of all Protestants will live in Africa. In contrast, despite being the birthplace of Protestantism, it is expected that fewer than 10% of Protestants will live in Europe by 2050. Historical and empirical studies, especially of Western Europe, have argued that there is a positive relationship between the proportion of Christians – Protestants in particular – and the development of liberal democracy.”
According to De Jager, the research she will conduct at Oxford forms part of a “broader research project on ‘Governance, democracy and religion in sub-Saharan Africa, which is being conducted within the Transformation Research Unit: Southern Africa” at SU.
TRU was officially established at SU at the end of 2014 and is based in the Political Science Department. The Unit focuses on examining South African democracy comparatively in the regional southern African and global contexts from a political, economic and social perspective. De Jager heads the southern Africa sub-division of TRU.
“The research I’ll conduct at Oxford University will investigate the relationship between religion and civic associationalism – as a crafting condition for democratic development – in sub-Saharan Africa. The key question guiding the research would be: If civil society is a core tenet of the development of liberal democracy, which religion, if any, is more civically engaged in sub-Saharan Africa? Thus, which religion leads to greater civic associationalism and why? And, thus stemming from this to reflect on the broader question of what the implications could be of the growth of Christianity, and Protestantism in particular for the region’s democratic development. While grounded in democratic theory, it will essentially be an empirical study using secondary data analysis of the World Values Survey and Afrobarometer to determine which religions are more civically engaged. Both surveys measure religious affiliation as well as use a number of variables to measure civic engagement.”
Photo: Anton Jordaan, SSFD
By Lynne Rippenaar-Moses
Source Stellenbosch University