The Spirit of Development

Protestant NGOs, Morality, and Economics in Zimbabwe

Erica Bornstein



Religious NGOs are important sources of humanitarian aid in Africa, entering where the welfare programs of weakened states fail to provide basic services. As collaborators and critics of African states, religious NGOs occupy an important structural and ideological position. They also, however, illustrate a key irony—how economic development, a symbol of science, progress, and this-worldly material improvement, borrows heavily from other-worldly faith. Through a study of two transnational NGOs in Zimbabwe, this book offers a nuanced depiction of development as both liberatory and limiting. Humanitarian effort is not a hopeless task, but behind the liberatory potential of Christian development lurks the sad irony that change can bring its own disappointments.


[Bornstein] has written a book that every believer (or unbeliever) in the theology of (African) economic development should read. —Voluntas


Erica Bornstein is Associate Professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.