Women’s Religious Authority in a Sub-Saharan Setting: Dialectics of Empowerment and Dependency

Victor Agadjanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Western scholarship on religion and gender has devoted considerable attention to women’s entry into leadership roles across various religious traditions and denominations. However, very little is known about the dynamics of women’s religious authority and leadership in developing settings, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, a region of powerful and diverse religious expressions. This study employs a combination of uniquely rich and diverse data to examine women’s formal religious authority in a predominantly Christian setting in Mozambique. I first use survey data to test hypotheses regarding the prevalence and patterns of women’s formal leadership across different denominational groups. I then support and extend the quantitative results with insights on pathways and consequences of women’s ascent to formal congregation authority drawn from qualitative data. The analysis illustrates how women’s religious authority both defies and reasserts the gendered constraints of the religious marketplace and the broader gender ideology in this developing context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)982-1008
Number of pages27
JournalGender and Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • gender ideology
  • religion
  • sub-Saharan Africa
  • women’s leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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