Journal of International and Global Studies


On November 14, 2013, the U.S. Department of State labeled Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, operating in northern Nigeria, “foreign terrorist organizations” with links to al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This designation is debatable, since the groups are diffuse, with tendencies to split or engage other armed groups into violent actions, primarily focused on Nigerian national and state politics and the implementation of shari’a criminal codes. This essay offers two analytic perspectives on “states of emergency” in Nigeria and the affective, violent forms of “justice” that armed young men employed during the 2000 implementation of shari’a criminal codes in Kano State, important contexts for analyses of militant groups such as Boko Haram or Ansaru. One analysis is meant to capture the expressive aspects of justice, and the other presumes a-priori realms of public experience and understanding that mediate the suffering and the cultural, religious, and political forms of justice Muslim youths draw upon to make sense of their plight. Based on eight years of ethnographic research in northern Nigeria, I suggest the uneasy reliance in Nigeria on secular and religious legalism as well as on extrajudicial violence to assure “justice” (re)enacts real-virtual experiences of authorized violence as “justice” in Nigeria’s heavily mediated publics.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.