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Samuel Zalanga

Job Titles

  • Professor of Sociology
    Anthropology, Sociology, & Reconciliation, College of Arts and Sciences
    Gerontology (M.A.), Graduate School
    Strategic Leadership (M.A.), Graduate School

Started at Bethel



  • Bayero University, Nigeria - B.S. in Sociology, 1986
  • Bayero University, Nigeria - M.S. in Sociology, 1989
  • University of Jos, Nigeria - M.S.C., 1994
  • University of Minnesota - Ph.D., 2000

Areas of expertise

Zalanga’s doctoral fieldwork focused on the comparative role of ruling elite coalitions in development policy formulation and implementation in Malaysia and Nigeria. He specifically studied the process and politics of neoliberal economic reforms and implementation. Zalanga grew up in the northeastern region of Nigeria and brings an international and interdisciplinary perspective to the department.


Samuel Zalanga’s broad area of specialization is development studies and social change. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Sociology. The title of his dissertation was: “The Postcolonial State and the Development Agenda: A Comparative Study of the Role of Ruling Elites in Development Policy Formulation and Implementation in Malaysia and Nigeria.”  In doing this research, he lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a period of time. Before moving to the United States in 1993 to pursue graduate studies, he lived and taught in Bauchi State, Northeastern Nigeria. He completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Sociology at Bayero University, Kano, and University of Jos, respectively in Northern Nigeria.

Statement of Calling as a Teacher

My calling in teaching is informed by the desire to help students to effectively combine their vocation with an informed ability to make meaning out of their existential experience in the contemporary postmodern age. I do not believe that four years of university education as such can teach students all the knowledge, skills, and experiences that they need in order to live a productive, meaningful, and satisfying life in the future. Consequently, I stress the need for students to learn important conceptual principles that can be applied in a variety of challenging situations and social contexts that they will encounter throughout their lives, whether they decide to work or immediately pursue graduate studies. I work hard to create a relaxed and secure environment for students to express their concerns and ask questions freely without fear of being demonized as conservative or liberal. I detest indoctrination; instead I cherish rational exchange of ideas with full disclosure. In particular, I am inspired in my teaching by Paulo Freire’s pedagogical method of dialogical education. I perceive the role of Christian liberal arts education as a very challenging one in the sense that if our students are going to be productive in the global community, they have to know what other students in non-Christian liberal arts university know. In addition, they need to develop the sophisticated ability to reflect on the implications of what they learn for their faith, for other people’s faith, and for society at large. Consequently, I do not see our university as an intellectual ghetto where Christian students will be sheltered from the realities and complexities of mainstream American society and the global community at large. Rather, I see the university as a place where students will receive very rigorous, competitive, and challenging academic and professional preparation. Truly, I see this as a more challenging goal than simply teaching in a regular liberal arts university because the role of faith in human existence in general runs through the whole gamut of our academic and professional programs. To totally banish faith or relegate it to a residual category in the process of education is to ignore a quintessential part of all human existential experience. One way or another, we have to come to terms with the role of faith, and its diverse expression and manifestation in any serious social scientific analysis of human society.

Courses Taught

  • Social Inequality
  • Religion in Society
  • Urbanization: Growth and Development of the Modern City
  • Peoples and Cultures of the United States
  • Sociology of Development

He also teaches one course each in the following graduate programs: Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Master of Arts in Gerontology. His scholarly interests, however, extend beyond the courses he currently teaches.


Association of Third World Studies Outstanding Service Award: Associate Editor of the African Sections of The Journal of Third World Studies, 2008-2014 for “Outstanding contributions to the improvement of the scope and quality of the Journal of Third World Studies” in Denver, Colorado, October 18, 2014

Faculty Excellence Award for Scholarship, Bethel University, 2011

Association of Third World Studies Presidential Award, Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, November 20-23, 2011

Association of Third World Studies Outstanding Service Award, for contributions to the Journal of Third World Studies as Associate Editor for Africa, 2009

Edgren Scholarship, Bethel University: “The Global and the Local in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala: Using Micro-Case Study to Interrogate the Structure and Consequences of Social Marginality in the Third World” (Summer 2005)


Selected Publications


“Islam and National Development: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Role of Religion in the Process of Economic Development and Cultural Change,” in Geographies of Muslim Identities: Representations of Diaspora, Gender, and Belonging, edited by Cara Aitchison, Peter Hopkins and Mei-Po Kwan (forthcoming)

Samuel Zalanga, "The Great Recession and Access to Higher Education," in The New Faces of American Poverty: A Reference Guide to the Great Recession. Edited by Lindsey Hanson and Timothy Essenburg. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. 2013

Samuel Zalanga, "Region of the Country and the Great Recession," in The New Faces of American Poverty: A Reference Guide to the Great Recession. Edited by Lindsey Hanson and Timothy Essenburg. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. 2013

Samuel Zalanga, "Societal View of Poverty and the Great Recession," in The New Faces of American Poverty: A Reference Guide to the Great Recession. Edited by Lindsey Hanson and Timothy Essenburg. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio. 2013


“Indigenous Capitalists: The Development of Indigenous Investment Companies in Relation to Class, Ethnicity, and the State in Malaysia and Fiji,” (with Erik Larson) in Political Power and Social Theory Volume 16, 75-101 (2004)

“Teaching and Learning Social Theory to Advance Social Transformation: Some Insights, Implications, and Practical Suggestions from Paulo Freire,” in The Discourse of Sociological Practice (DSP), University of Massachusetts, Boston, Department of Sociology (Fall 2004)


  • “Hegel’s Philosophy of Freedom, God, and the State as World-Historical Discourse on Power and Domination: The West versus the Rest of the World in Edward Said’s Critical Hermeneutic,” at The Social Theory Forum, University of Massachusetts, Boston (April 2005)
  • “Christianity and Human Rights: A Sociological Assessment of the ‘Rise of the Religious Right’ in America and the Impact of that on Human Rights Concerns in the United States and the Third World” at Christianity and Human Rights Lilly Conference, Samford University, Alabama (November 2004)
  • “Religion and the Development Agenda: The Contradictory Roles of Pentecostal Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa” at The 22nd Annual Meeting of the Association of Third World Studies, (October 2004), Macon Georgia
  • “Beyond Civil Rights: Explaining the Changing Landscape of Segregation and Discrimination Against African Americans Using Macro-Sociological Perspective,” at 5th Annual African American Studies Conference at Macalester College, Saint Paul, Minnesota (February 2004)
  • “Globalization and the Implementation of Neoliberal Economic Reforms in Postcolonial Nations: Explaining Variation Using Comparative Macro-Research” at the 21st Annual Meeting of the Association of Third World Studies, Louisiana State University, Shreveport (November 2003)
  • “The Power to Legitimize Oppression and to Define the Legitimate Contours of Social Resistance,” at The Faces of Justice Conference, Grand Canyon University (October 2003)