The inevitable clash? Inter-religious violence and local power-sharing in Nigeria

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The inevitable clash? Inter-religious violence and local power-sharing in Nigeria

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Since the end of the Cold War, intra-state or ethnic conflict has emerged as one of the most serious threats to the peace and stability of states in the international system. Inter-religious violence, in particular, and the politicization of new forms of resurgent religion are now a major challenge. Not all religiously pluralistic communities witness violence, however: what explains why inter-religious violence breaks out in some communities and not others? Under what conditions does religious identity - as opposed to other salient ethnic cleavages - become the fault line and mobilizing narrative of communal violence? Examining the variation in Muslim-Christian post-1980 violence in northern Nigeria, I suggest that a community's vulnerability to inter-religious violence is a function of pre-existing ethno-tribal power-sharing arrangements at the local level. While scholars and policy-makers are disappointed by the ability of formal, national-level power-sharing institutions to avert ethnic conflict and instability, they overlook the peacebuilding capacity of informal local government power-sharing. From nearly a year of case study research and original data collection in northern Nigeria, I find that religious change in Nigeria has introduced a powerful narrative of group identity and difference that, depending on informal local power-sharing arrangements, can be leveraged for violence or peace.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major: Political science. Advisors: David Samuels, Kathleen Collins. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 412 pages, appendices A-G.

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Vinson, Laura Thaut. (2013). The inevitable clash? Inter-religious violence and local power-sharing in Nigeria. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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