“Understanding Boko Haram” (Solomon & Hentz, eds.)

In April, Routledge will release “Understanding Boko Haram: Terrorism and Insurgency in Africa,” edited by James Hentz (Virginia Military Institute) and Hussein Solomon (University of the Free State).   The publisher’s description follows:

The primary objective of this book is to understand the nature of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

Boko Haram’s goal of an Islamic Caliphate, starting in the Borno State in the North 9781138696228East that will eventually cover the areas of the former Kanem-Borno Empire, is a rejection of the modern state system forced on it by the West. The central theme of this volume examines the relationship between the failure of the statebuilding project in Nigeria and the outbreak and nature of insurgency. At the heart of the Boko Haram phenomenon is a country racked with cleavages making it hard for Nigeria to cohere as a modern state. Part I introduces this theme and places the Boko Haram insurgency in a historical context. There are, however, multiple cleavages in Nigeria: ethnic, regional, cultural, and religious, and Part II examines the different state-society dynamics fuelling the conflict. Political grievances are common to every society; however what gives Boko Haram the space to express such grievances through violence? Importantly, this volume demonstrates that the insurgency is, in fact, a reflection of the hollowness within Nigeria’s overall security. Part III looks at the responses to Boko Haram by Nigeria, neighbouring states, and external actors. For Western actors, Boko Haram is seen as part of the “global war on terror” (GWOT) and the fact that it has pledged allegiance to ISIS encourages this framing. However, as the chapters here discuss, this is an over-simplification of Boko Haram and the West needs to address the multiple dimension of Boko Haram.

This book will be of much interest to students of terrorism and political violence, insurgencies, African politics, war and conflict studies, and IR in general.

McCauley, “The Logic of Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Africa”

In March, the Cambridge University Press will release “The Logic of Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Africa,” by John McCauley (University of Maryland, College Park).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book explains why conflicts in Africa are sometimes ethnic and sometimes religious, and why a conflict might change from ethnic to religious even as the 9781107175013opponents remain fixed. Conflicts in the region are often viewed as either ‘tribal’ or ‘Muslim-Christian’, seemingly rooted in deep-seated ethnic or religious hatreds. Yet, as this book explains, those labels emerge as a function of political mobilization. It argues that ethnicity and religion inspire distinct passions among individuals, and that political leaders exploit those passions to achieve their own strategic goals when the institutions of the state break down. To support this argument, the book relies on a novel experiment conducted in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to demonstrate that individual preferences change in ethnic and religious contexts. It then uses case illustrations from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Sudan to highlight the strategic choices of leaders that ultimately shape the frames of conflict.

Eltantawi, “Shari’ah on Trial”

In April, the University of California Press will release “Shari’ah on Trial: Northern Nigeria’s Islamic Revolution,” by Sarah Eltantawi (Evergreen State College).  The publisher’s description follows: 

In November of 1999, Nigerians took to the streets demanding the re-implementation of shari’ah law in their country. Two years later, 9780520293786many Nigerians supported the death sentence by stoning of a peasant woman for alleged sexual misconduct. Public outcry in the West was met with assurances to the Western public: stoning is not a part of Islam; stoning happens “only in Africa”; reports of stoning are exaggerated by Western sensationalism. However, none of these statements are true.  Shari’ah on Trial goes beyond journalistic headlines and liberal pieties to give a powerful account of how Northern Nigerians reached a point of such desperation that they demanded the return of the strictest possible shari’ah law. Sarah Eltantawi analyzes changing conceptions of Islamic theology and practice as well as Muslim and British interactions dating back to the colonial period to explain the resurgence of shari’ah, with implications for Muslim-majority countries around the world.

Barnes, “Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic”

This month, Baylor University Press releases Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic: Tuskegee, Colonialism, and the Shaping of African Industrial Education by Andrew E. Barnes (Arizona State University). The publisher’s description follows:

global-chrisitianityMany Europeans saw Africa’s colonization as an exhibition of European racial ascendancy. African Christians saw Africa’s subjugation as a demonstration of European technological superiority. If the latter was the case, then the path to Africa’s liberation ran through the development of a competitive African technology.

In Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic, Andrew E. Barnes chronicles African Christians’ turn to American-style industrial education—particularly the model that had been developed by Booker T. Washington at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute—as a vehicle for Christian regeneration in Africa. Over the period 1880–1920, African Christians, motivated by Ethiopianism and its conviction that Africans should be saved by other Africans, proposed and founded schools based upon the Tuskegee model.

Barnes follows the tides of the Black Atlantic back to Africa when African Christians embraced the new education initiatives of African American Christians and Tuskegee as the most potent example of technological ingenuity. Building on previously unused African sources, the book traces the movements to establish industrial education institutes in cities along the West African coast and in South Africa, Cape Province, and Natal. As Tuskegee and African schools modeled in its image proved, peoples of African descent could—and did—develop competitive technology.

Though the attempts by African Christians to create industrial education schools ultimately failed, Global Christianity and the Black Atlantic demonstrates the ultimate success of transatlantic black identity and Christian resurgence in Africa at the turn of the twentieth century. Barnes’ study documents how African Christians sought to maintain indigenous identity and agency in the face of colonial domination by the state and even the European Christian missions of the church.

Lauterbach, “Christianity, Wealth, and Spiritual Power in Ghana”

In January, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Christianity, Wealth, and Spiritual Power in Ghana,” by Karen Lauterbach (University of Copenhagen).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book centers around mid-level charismatic pastors in Ghana. Karen Lauterbach analyzes pastorship as a pathway to becoming small “big men” and achieving status, 9783319334936wealth, and power in the country. The volume investigates both the social processes of becoming a pastor and the spiritual dimensions of how power and wealth are conceptualized, achieved, and legitimized in the particular context of Asante in Ghana. Lauterbach integrates her analysis of charismatic Christianity with a historically informed examination of social mobility—how people in subordinate positions seek to join up with power. She explores how the ideas and experiences surrounding the achievement of wealth and performance of power are shaped and re-shaped. In this way, the book historicizes current expressions of charismatic Christianity in Ghana while also bringing the role of religion and belief to bear on our understanding of wealth and power as they function more broadly in African societies.

Steen-Johnsen, “State and Politics in Religious Peacebuilding”

Next month, Palgrave Macmillan will release “State and Politics in Religious Peacebuilding,” by Tale Steen-Johnsen.  The publisher’s description follows:

In this book, Tale Steen-Johnsen explains how religious peacebuilders are limited by9781137593894 both formal and more subtle political strategies aimed at regulating civil society.  Political authorities have a vested interest in keeping social and religious movements under control, which limits the opportunities religious leaders have to diminish violent conflicts between religious groups. This volume offers empirical examples of these connections in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar and Tanzania. It is valuable resource for both scholars and development practitioners interested in how politics and religion become conflated when religious actors engage to build peace.

Thurston, “Salafism in Nigeria”

In September, Cambridge University Press released “Salafism in Nigeria: Islam, Preaching, and Politics,” by Alexander Thurston (Georgetown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The spectre of Boko Haram and its activities in Nigeria dominates both media and 9781107157439academic analysis of Islam in the region. But, as Alexander Thurston argues here, beyond the sensational headlines this group generates, the dynamics of Muslim life in northern Nigeria remain poorly understood. Drawing on interviews with leading Salafis in Nigeria as well as on a rereading of the history of the global Salafi movement, this volume explores how a canon of classical and contemporary texts defines Salafism. Examining how these texts are interpreted and – crucially – who it is that has the authority to do so, Thurston offers a systematic analysis of curricula taught in Saudi Arabia and how they shape religious scholars’ approach to religion and education once they return to Africa. Essential for scholars of religion and politics, this unique text explores how the canon of Salafism has been used and refined, from Nigeria’s return to democracy to the jihadist movement Boko Haram.

“Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring” (Roberts et al, eds.)

In March, the Oxford University Press released “Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters,” edited by Adam Roberts (University of Oxford), Michael J. Willis (University of Oxford), Rory McCarthy (University of Oxford), and Timothy Garton Ash (University of Oxford).  The publisher’s description follows:

Civil resistance, especially in the form of massive peaceful demonstrations, was at the heart of the Arab Spring-the chain of events in the Middle East and North Africa that 9780198749028
erupted in December 2010. It won some notable victories: popular movements helped to bring about the fall of authoritarian governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Yet these apparent triumphs of non-violent action were followed by disasters–wars in Syria, anarchy in Libya and Yemen, reversion to authoritarian rule in Egypt, and counter-revolution backed by external intervention in Bahrain. Looming over these events was the enduring divide between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam.

Why did so much go wrong? Was the problem the methods, leadership and aims of the popular movements, or the conditions of their societies? In this book, experts on these countries, and on the techniques of civil resistance, set the events in their historical, social and political contexts. They describe how governments and outside powers–including the US and EU–responded, how Arab monarchies in Jordan and Morocco undertook to introduce reforms to avert revolution, and why the Arab Spring failed to spark a Palestinian one. They indicate how and why Tunisia remained, precariously, the country that experienced the most political change for the lowest cost in bloodshed.

This book provides a vivid illustrated account and rigorous scholarly analysis of the course and fate, the strengths and the weaknesses, of the Arab Spring. The authors draw clear and challenging conclusions from these tumultuous events. Above all, they show how civil resistance aiming at regime change is not enough: building the institutions and the trust necessary for reforms to be implemented and democracy to develop is a more difficult but equally crucial task.

Chalcraft, “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East”

In March, Cambridge University Press released “Popular Politics in the Making of the Modern Middle East,” by John Chalcraft (London School of Economics). The publisher’s description follows:

The waves of protest ignited by the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi in Tunisia in late 2010 highlighted for an international audience the importance of contentious 9781107007505politics in the Middle East and North Africa. John Chalcraft’s ground-breaking account of popular protest emphasizes the revolutionary modern history of the entire region. Challenging top-down views of Middle Eastern politics, he looks at how commoners, subjects and citizens have long mobilised in defiance of authorities. Chalcraft takes examples from a wide variety of protest movements from Morocco to Iran. He forges a new narrative of change over time, creating a truly comparative framework rooted in the dynamics of hegemonic contestation. Beginning with movements under the Ottomans, which challenged corruption and oppression under the banners of religion, justice, rights and custom, this book goes on to discuss the impact of constitutional movements, armed struggles, nationalism and independence, revolution and Islamism. A work of unprecedented range and depth, this volume will be welcomed by undergraduates and graduates studying protest in the region and beyond.

  • Surveys protest movements from Morocco to Iran, from the eighteenth century to the present
  • Based on an original conceptual framework that challenges both socioeconomic determinism and power-lite theories of contentious politics
  • Challenges top-down views of politics in the modern Middle East, giving a narrative of overall transformation that includes popular politics

“North Africa Under Byzantium and Early Islam” (Stevens and Conant, eds.)

In March, the Harvard University Press will release “North Africa Under Byzantium and Early Islam,” edited by Susan T. Stevens (Randolph College) and Jonathan P. Conant (Brown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The profound economic and strategic significance of the province of “Africa” made the Maghreb highly contested in the Byzantine period—by the Roman 9780884024088-lg(Byzantine) empire, Berber kingdoms, and eventually also Muslim Arabs—as each group sought to gain, control, and exploit the region to its own advantage. Scholars have typically taken the failure of the Byzantine endeavor in Africa as a foregone conclusion. North Africa under Byzantium and Early Islam reassesses this pessimistic vision both by examining those elements of Romano-African identity that provided continuity in a period of remarkable transition, and by seeking to understand the transformations in African society in the context of the larger post-Roman Mediterranean. Chapters in this book address topics including the legacy of Vandal rule in Africa, historiography and literature, art and architectural history, the archaeology of cities and their rural hinterlands, the economy, the family, theology, the cult of saints, Berbers, and the Islamic conquest, in an effort to consider the ways in which the imperial legacy was re-interpreted, re-imagined, and put to new uses in Byzantine and early Islamic Africa.

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