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College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Department of Political Science

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Elizabeth Sperber

  • Elizabeth Sperber

    Elizabeth Sperber

Assistant Professor
Sturm Hall, Room 471
Phone: 303-871-2138


Areas of expertise/research interests

  • Christianity and African politics
  • democracy and democratic erosion
  • political economy of development
  • global social policy
  • mixed methods research design

Professional biography

Elizabeth Sperber is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Denver. She specializes in comparative politics with regional expertise in sub-Saharan Africa. Professor Sperber's first book manuscript offers new theory and empirics to help explain why, when and how born again Christianity, especially Pentecostalism, has arisen as a politically salient identity in some sub-Saharan states sinces the Cold War, but not others.

In 2019, Professor Sperber received the Ted Jelen Best Journal Article Award from the Religion and Politics section of the American Political Science Association for the article, 'Pentecostal Identity and Citizen Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa: New Evidence from Zambia," coauthored with Erin Hern. Sperber's work also received academic awards at both Columbia and Brown Universities and is published in journals such as Politics and Religion, the International Journal of Social Policy, the American Journal of Public Health, and the Journal of International Affairs, among others. Her primary research experience is in Zambia, Uganda, and South Africa.

Sperber is currently launching a new community-collaborative study with all major religious organizations in Zambia to study the role of religion in civic engagement training. With funding from the Global Religion Research Institute, DU and NYU, and support from Innovations for Poverty Action, Zambia, Dr. Sperber leads this project with her co-PIs, Drs. Gwyneth McClendon (NYU) and O'Brien Kaaba (University of Zambia).

At DU, Professor Sperber teaches courses of African politics, democratic erosion, research methods, the political economy of development, and the study of identity and politics across disciplines (advanced seminar). During the spring of 2020, Sperber will reside at the University of Notre Dame, where she will be on the Visiting Research Fellowship at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies.


Postdoctoral Fellow, McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research and the Department of Politics, New York University
PhD, MPhil, MA, Political Science, Columbia University
BA, (with Highest Honors) Brown University