My main research focus is on the anthropology of pastoral groups (especially Fulani) and ethno-linguistic minorities in central and northern Nigeria. This also encompasses the study of inter-religious encounters and relations (between Muslims and Christians and with ‘traditional’ religion), violent conflict, and peacebuilding. I also research access to and rights over land and water and have begun researching anthropologies of the environment and indigenous knowledge, especially in relation to biodiversity, climate and ethno-ecology, in pastoral and agrarian societies. I am learning and carrying out research in the Fulfulde language.
Geographically, my main research focus is Nigeria but I have carried out fieldwork (of varying durations) across western Africa, from Mauritania to Cameroon. I try to work across disciplines too where appropriate - social anthropology, history, politics and increasingly environmental studies. I have worked comparatively on projects involving Indonesia, Kenya, and elsewhere. I began ethnographic fieldwork at doctoral level in Plateau State, Nigeria, in 2005-7 and continued at postdoctoral level from 2011. I was based in central Nigeria from 2015-19 (with research trips to pastoral communities in Niger, Cameroon and other parts of West Africa in this period too). As well as studying pastoralists and livestock I have researched conflict issues in central Nigeria and the regional and local dynamics and humanitarian impacts of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east.
I have a doctorate from the University of Oxford (2011) and MA (distinction) in social anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2001). I was elected to a college research fellowship at Cambridge University from 2010-14 (King's College & Centre of African Studies), which also enabled intensive fieldwork. From 2016-19 I worked on the 'Securing the Local' project, based at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam (PI: Laurens Bakker), co-supervising the Nigerian part of the study and carrying out fieldwork with a team of researchers across northern Nigeria. This was on local responses to insecurity with studies in the north-east, north-central, and north-west of Nigeria. The research findings are forthcoming in an edited book which we are preparing under contract - Order and Disorder in northern Nigeria: armed groups, insurgency, and resistance (Oxford: James Currey / Boydell & Brewer). I have published in various edited volumes and area studies journals on Africa including Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Politique Africaine, etc. I am working on a monograph based on fieldwork I have carried out within a number of pastoral Fulani families (from lenyi including Jaafun and Uda’en), who I have stayed with in villages and in their rainy season and dry season camps over the years. I have also been carrying out ethnographic fieldwork in various communities of the Jos Plateau and am gradually writing up that material as well. This is a highland area in central Nigeria with varied landscapes and ecologies and exceptional ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. It is part of the religiously plural Middle Belt and over the past two decades has experienced high levels of violent conflict in some areas, though this is uneven in terms of its distribution. There are also areas where peaceful relations have been more or less sustained. My research in the central zone of Nigeria focuses on social relations, historical ethnography, conflict, and both social and environmental adaptations and changes across the region, especially in Plateau State.
As well as my affiliation to the University of Amsterdam I am currently also affiliated to the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, and to the Centre for Peace and Security Studies at the federal university in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria - Modibbo Adama University of Technology.