Cement, Earthworms, and Cheese Factories

Religion and Community Development in Rural Ecuador

Jill DeTemple

Awarded the Godbey Authors’ Award from the Godbey Lecture Series, Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences

Cement, Earthworms, and Cheese Factories examines the ways in which religion and community development are closely intertwined in a rural part of contemporary Latin America. Using historical, documentary, and ethnographic data collected over more than a decade as an aid worker and as a researcher in central Ecuador, Jill DeTemple examines the forces that have led to this entanglement of religion and development and the ways in which rural Ecuadorians, as well as development and religious personnel, negotiate these complicated relationships.

Technical innovations have been connected to religious change since the time of the Inca conquest, and Ecuadorians have created defensive strategies for managing such connections. Although most analyses of development either tend to ignore the genuinely religious roots of development or conflate development with religion itself, these strategies are part of a larger negotiation of progress and its meaning in twenty-first-century Ecuador. DeTemple focuses on three development agencies—a liberationist Catholic women’s group, a municipal unit dedicated to agriculture, and evangelical Protestant missionaries engaged in education and medical work—to demonstrate that in some instances Ecuadorians encourage a hybridity of religion and development, while in other cases they break up such hybridities into their component parts, often to the consternation of those with whom religious and development discourse originate. This management of hybrids reveals Ecuadorians as agents who produce and reform modernities in ways often unrecognized by development scholars, aid workers, or missionaries, and also reveals that an appreciation of religious belief is essential to a full understanding of diverse aspects of daily life.

Jill DeTemple is associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University.

“In Cement, Earthworms, and Cheese Factories: Religion and Community Development in Rural Ecuador, Jill DeTemple argues for an important revision to previous work that portrays contemporary religious movements as resistant to modernity, showing instead that what is happening is an ongoing negotiation and reformation of what modernity and development mean. The book will be of interest to scholars and students in religious studies, development studies, anthropology, sociology, and Andean and Latin American studies.” — Barry Lyons, Wayne State University

“In this book, Jill DeTemple explores the religious origins of modern ideologies of progress and development and the deep, continuous interplay between religion concepts, practices, and communities and development activities in contemporary Ecuador. Only by focusing on this interplay can we understanding of the concrete dynamics of development, and at the same time DeTemple’s innovative and nuanced work richly illuminates the broader cultural vitality and mobility of contemporary religion.” — Randall Styers, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Jill DeTemple examines the ways in which people negotiate religious and development discourses, using ethnography as well as historical, religious, political, and economic analyses. She explores how ‘lived religion’ and local conceptions of development combine in ways that challenge both the hegemony of western development discourses as well as the view that modernity is marked by increasing secularization. This book is a timely and valuable contribution to the growing field of studies in religions and development, and will be of interest to scholars and students as well as development practitioners.” — Emma Tomalin, University of Leeds


“Eschatology, the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind, clearly belongs to the Western realm of ‘religion.’ In this well-written book, Jill DeTemple illustrates how, historically and in terms of her ethnography of a community in Central Andean Ecuador, it applies to Western notions of development.” — The Americas

“DeTemple’s work focuses more on the ways that religious and development goals get intertwined in specific places and contexts, and the lack of distinct boundaries between the two. But in telling the stories of communities, she shows that many times the goals and assumptions of development workers and ‘those being developed’ are not the same. The ends of development are re-imagined.” — Contesting the Good News

“A result of the book’s focus is that_ Cement, Earthworms, and Cheese Factories_ is more useful for development practitioners, both of a secular and religious nature, than those concerned with the politics of development work. For those practitioners, it provides useful reflections on how the negotiation of religious and development discourse becomes constructed in specific and concrete spaces such as kitchens and bedrooms. DeTemple contends that how these discourses are negotiated will have lasting consequences for both development and religious work in Latin America.” — Journal of Latin American Studies