While the Nigerian brotherhoods have become increasingly prominent in the media given the criminal threat they are said to represent, they have not been the subject of any field research in Nigeria or Europe. This media coverage is fueling a growing confusion between the legal and police categorizations that are used to define these brotherhoods and the pan-African practices and discourses of solidarity and emancipation that they promote. The socio-historical approach developed in this study makes it possible to put into perspective the global expansion of confraternities since the 2000s. It offers another perspective on the role of these secret societies and their inclusion in political economies and different territories. In Europe, the Nigerian confraternities are first and foremost social institutions for the youth and the diasporas. They ensure the reproduction of the power of traditional and political elites abroad by capturing incomes linked to migration (remittances), and therefore play a key role in the production of a form of globalization of Nigerian society from below. They participate in the establishment of moral and social institutions from the south of Nigeria in Europe. Behind a discourse of empowerment and solidarity, the confraternities are thus a transnational network which perpetuates a conservative order, a social hierarchy and the inequalities which they help to naturalize.
Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos
In Nigeria, the Islamic terrorism of Boko Haram raises a lot of questions about the political relationship between so-called "religious" violence and the state. At least three of them expose our confusions about islamization, conversion, radicalization and the politicization of religion, namely:
– Is it a religious uprising or a political contest for power?
– How does it express a social revolt?
– How indicative is it of a radicalization of the patterns of protest of the Muslims in Northern Nigeria?
A fieldwork study shows that Boko Haram is not so much political because it wants to reform the society, but mainly because it reveals the intrigues of a weak government and the fears of a nation in the making. Otherwise, the radicalization of Islam cannot be limited to terrorism and it is difficult to know if the movement is more extremist, fanatic and murderous than previous uprising like the one of Maitatsine in Kano in 1980. The capacity of Boko Haram to develop international connections and to challenge the state is not exceptional as such. Far from the clichés on a clash of civilizations between the North and the South, the specificity of the sect in Nigeria has more to do with its suicide attacks. Yet the terrorist evolution of Boko Haram was first and foremost caused by the brutality of the state repression, more than alleged contacts with an international jihadist movement.