New insights in research on ethnic violence in Jos, Nigeria

14 June 2018

On the 26th of June 2018, Kingsley Madueke will defend his PhD thesis on ethnic violence in Jos, a city in his native Nigeria.

Madueke, born in Jos, Nigeria, has a MA in Conflict Management and Peace Studies from the University of Jos. Madueke has witnessed unrests firsthand in Jos, a once peaceful city recently disturbed by intergroup clashes between Muslims and Christians and violent extremism in the form of suicide bombings and other kinds of attacks. He has been part of a number of research projects on the security challenges in Nigeria and has reported on these issues as a journalist with Radio Nigeria and a freelance for Radio Netherlands. He wrote his PhD at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research.

Summary of the research

Contestations over indigene rights and political representation have led to large-scale Christian-Muslim clashes in the central Nigerian city of Jos. Over 5,000 people were killed in episodic violence between 2001 and 2010, distinguishing the riots as some of the most atrocious and persistent in Nigeria’s modern history. What are the factors that shaped the spread, patterns and recurrence of violence in the neighbourhoods of Jos? Scholars agree that the ethnic composition of a locality is crucial for explaining its vulnerability to violence. However, views are divided on the exact nature of the interrelation. Empirical evidence is conflicting.

Madueke’s dissertation proposes that the ambivalence surrounding the interrelation between ethnic composition and violence can partly be traced to three identifiable oversights in the literature:

1) a focus only on a neighbourhood’s ethnic composition without paying adequate attention to its location and the ethnic composition of adjoining areas;

2) a disregard for the shared boundaries of neighbourhoods and the barriers, roads and other demarcations that separate or link them;

3) a neglect of the mobile nature of armed mobs, thereby conflating the origins of rioters with the destinations of their violent events.

The dissertation argues that ethnic composition, alone, is not enough to explain a neighbourhood’s vulnerability to violence; other factors that shape the spread and patterns of violence are a neighbourhood’s location and adjacency to surrounding areas of similar or dissimilar ethnic composition, their shared boundaries and how these boundaries facilitate or hinder the mobilisation and mobility of armed mobs.

The study is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Jos between September 2015 and July 2017. It relied on key informant and mobile interviews, visual documentation and other sources of data not previously explored in Jos, such as primary school registers and hospital records of victims of violence.

The dissertation concludes that contrary to the determinism that dominates the ethnic composition-violence discourse, both segregated and mixed neighbourhoods in Jos contributed in the production of violence, albeit differentially. While segregated localities provided a hospitable environment for mobilising armed mobs, the mixed areas, especially those located between segregated settlements, served as the frontiers of collective violence. Moreover, locals-only pedestrian alleys linking neighbourhoods with contiguous boundaries enhanced the mobility of armed mobs, while major highways and other physical barriers hindered it.

These findings have both scholarly and practical implications. Academically, they draw attention to the importance of analysing neighbourhood location and the mobility of armed mobs in the study of ethnic violence. Practically, they offer authorities deeper understanding of the mobilisation and mobility of rioters in different sociospatial settings – an insight that is crucial for developing context-sensitive measures to mitigate, and even prevent, violence.

More information on PhD defence

Published by  AISSR