Thurston’s New Book Sheds Light on Nigeria’s Jihadist Movement

February 14, 2018
by Xander Causwell

On February 7th, 2018, Dr. Alexander Thurston, Assistant Professor of Teaching in the African Studies Program, launched his new book Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement at an event hosted by the Mortara Center for International Studies.

In the book, Thurston illustrates the history of the Islamic State-affiliated militant group, most famous for their kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria in 2014. Thurston challenges two popular assumptions that have underlain analyses of Boko Haram in the global discourse. The first assumption is that Boko Haram’s rise is mainly a by-product of poverty or unfavorable socio-economic disparities between southern and northern Nigeria. The second assumption is that Boko Haram is simply a local extension of the global Jihadist movement.

Throughout the talk, Thurston made the case for weaving the facts associated with each of those assumptions into one coherent narrative of Boko Haram’s ascent. He also delved into the evolution of the militant group’s leadership and spoke about the negotiations that preceded the return of kidnapped girls. The latter, according to Thurston, suggests there may be hope for future negotiations between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government:

“It’s clearly different to negotiate over something very limited like the release of hostages… versus negotiating over something like the entire future of Boko Haram or the future of Nigeria. But, given that they’ve been able to negotiate on this one limited thing, it makes me wonder what other kinds of possibilities there are for broader negotiations and settlements that might bring the conflict to a close.”