Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Science
Politics of Armed Jihadism in West Africa

Politics of Armed Jihadism in West Africa This research offers new insights into why some West African communities experience violent opposition to incumbent religious establishments and existing religious networks while communities with similar conditions experience nonviolent mobilization. For example, extremist groups that have ties to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) use armed jihadism to impose their interpretation of Islamic scriptures by violent means. Yet amidst similar structural and historical conditions of poverty, acute grievances, and Muslim-majority population dynamics, only some communities experience violent jihadism. This divergence within and across countries in West Africa drives me to investigate three similar states—Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal—with very different levels of jihadism. Current studies tend to focus on armed jihadism that directly confronts the state but ignore or downplay the role of state actors and the full scope of their relationships with religious establishments and violent jihadist networks. I argue that many jihadist networks infiltrate both state and religious networks as insiders as a strategy to seek control and reconstruct order. Building on preliminary research in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Senegal, I will employ a multi-method approach to compare micro-level data on religious networks and state governance—gathered via an original survey with paired comparison across cases—to macro-level observations about state and religious power. This comparative subnational study in West African jihadism will contribute to scholarship on the construction of disorder in states with varied levels of jihadism.