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Dr Adam Higazi

Dr Adam Higazi

King’s Research Fellow in African Studies 2010-2014


I am presently a Research Fellow in African Studies at King's College, Cambridge. Prior affiliations and qualifications:

D.Phil, St Antony's College, University of Oxford (in Development Studies; awarded 2011) 

MA, in Social Anthropology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (with distinction, 2001)

Departments and Institutes

King's College:
Research Fellow in African Studies
Centre of African Studies:
Research Fellow

Research Interests

My research interests cut across social/political anthropology and history and include a range of topics, all of which I am investigating through ethnographic fieldwork. I have carried out most of my research so far in central and northern Nigeria, but I am also interested in the wider regional contexts of West and North Africa, and in comparable ethnographic work from other parts of the world. I have done some two years of fieldwork on the Jos Plateau and in the lowlands of Plateau State, in central Nigeria, during repeat visits at doctoral and post-doctoral levels, since 2005. I have also worked for shorter periods in north-eastern Nigeria, a bit in north-west Nigeria, and in northern Cameroon and Ghana.

I work in rural and urban areas and among different population groups – Muslims and Christians – of central and northern Nigeria, but with a primary focus on the Jos Plateau. Plateau State is a fascinating place to study, due to its religious pluralism, ethnic and linguistic diversity, varieties of cultural expression, and the adaptations of people to the ecological and topographical characteristics of the area. This political, social and environmental complexity forms the backdrop to my attempts at ethnographic understanding of the region. My research touches on a variety of themes.  I have spent a lot of time studying collective violence in Plateau State and northern Nigeria. The conflicts in Plateau State are primarily between Muslims and Christians, but there are also factors other than religion that frame them, and it is not all religiously mixed communities that have been affected by conflict. Neither are the conflicts in Plateau continuous, but they have recurred at different moments, especially since 2001, and claimed thousands of lives on both sides. Due to the intensity of the violence, and because it runs along some of the major religious and ethnic cleavages in Nigeria, the Plateau crisis has been of wider national significance.

My research on the conflicts is anthropologically grounded, analysing the disputes and episodes of violence through an ethnographic lens and placing them in their social and historical context. I have researched the urban riots which, from 2001, have periodically erupted in the city of Jos, and the rather different forms of insecurity and conflict in rural areas of central Nigeria. I am also researching moments and places of peace, some of which provide important comparative lessons. I have worked throughout Plateau State and in all of the neighbouring states, which enables both comparative and contextual understanding. I have documented and chronicled these conflicts, exploring their political and religious underpinnings and the processes of group mobilisation. The basis of the conflicts relates to larger issues of citizenship, indigeneity, religious reform, and new religious movements – Islamic and Christian – and political inclusion and exclusion.  I am also interested in debates over 'retraditionalisation' and the apparent resurgence of 'traditional' religion, cultural festivals, and shrines in some rural communities. I maintain contact with local peace initiatives in Jos, and where possible have disseminated my work to them, as my research integrates perspectives from fieldwork among both Muslims and Christians, rather than just one side or the other.   

I have also carried out empirically based research on Boko Haram, the nickname of a militant Islamist movement that has been active in parts of northern Nigeria, having formed in the north-eastern state of Borno. Fieldwork in north-east Nigeria has also enabled some comparative work on local institutional patterns of inclusion and exclusion between different states, particularly Bauchi and Gombe. This relates to the question of how religious and ethnic diversity is accommodated in different places, socially and politically. The aim has also been to account for differences, through historical and sociological analysis, and to understand the extent to which in these case studies inclusion is necessary for more peaceful outcomes. This particular study entailed work in parts of northern Nigeria that have long been neglected by researchers.

A research theme I am also pursuing is on pastoralism and nomadic or mobile populations. This comes out of my work on rural insecurity, but has now moved beyond the conflict theme. I have carried out fieldwork among the pastoral Fulani (cattle rearers) of the Jos Plateau and contiguous areas. This research interest has also taken me to Fulani camps in different parts of northern Nigeria and into Cameroon, but it is ongoing work and the intensive study I plan to do is still in its genesis. The Fulani on the Jos Plateau are mainly settled – however, they also practise seasonal transhumance and/or agro-pastoralism. I am presently researching the spread of an Islamic reform movement (Izala) among the Fulani in rural areas of the Jos Plateau. I am also studying aspects of the livestock trade in central/northern Nigeria, and cattle rustling (which, due to the monetary and cultural value of cattle, has become a major destabilising factor in rural areas). With the help of Fulani informants, I am mapping local and international stock routes that traverse Plateau State and its vicinity, an exercise that relates to the management of rural space and is partly intended to feed into current dialogue between farmers and pastoralists.

When I am in the field I generally live with Nigerian host families. I have stayed for months at a time in Muslim and Christian households, in various neighbourhoods of Jos and elsewhere. 


Key Publications

Journal Articles

(2014, forthcoming) 'Ethno-religious conflict and local security practices among farmers and pastoralists of the Jos Plateau, central Nigeria'.

(2013) ‘The origins and transformation of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria’ - published in French translation as:  ‘Les origines et la transformation de l’insurrection de Boko Haram dans le nord du Nigeria’, Politique Africaine, 130: 137-164. 

(2008) ‘Social mobilisation and collective violence: vigilantes and militias in the lowlands of Plateau State, Central Nigeria’. Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 78 (1): 109-135.

(2007) ‘The politics of urban violence in Jos, Nigeria, from colonial rule to the 2007 elections’ - published in French translation as 'Violence urbaine et politique à Jos (Nigeria), de la période colonial aux élections de 2007', Politique Africaine, 106: 69-91. 


Working papers

(2013) Rural Insecurity on the Jos Plateau, Nigeria: livelihoods, land, and religious reform among the Berom, Fulani, and Hausa. Oxford: Nigeria Research Network, 94 pp.

Mustapha, A. R; Higazi, A.; Lar, J.; Karel, K. (2012), Jos: Top-Down and Bottom-Up Approaches to Conflict Resolution. Oxford: Nigeria Research Network, 85 pp.


Book chapters 

(2009) ‘Integrating Migration and Development Policies: Challenges for ACP-EU Cooperation’ (53pp.), in Razzaque, M. A. (ed.) Trade, Migration, and Labour Mobility. London: Cameron May Ltd. for the Commonwealth Secretariat.

(2009) ‘Response to Ken Wiwa, ‘If this is your Land, where are your Stories?’’ [on the Niger Delta conflicts], in T. Chesters (ed.) Land Rights: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2005. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Book reviews

(2014), Review of 'Authority Stealing: Anti-Corruption War and Democratic Politics in Post-Military Nigeria' by W. Adebanwi. Durham (NC): Carolina Academic Press, 2012, 450 pp., in: The Journal of Modern African Studies (52/1).

(2013) Review of Andersson-Trovalla, U. Medicine for Uncertain Futures: A Nigerian City in the Wake of a Crisis. Uppsala: Uppsala Univ., 2011. In: Anthropos.


Other publications

(July 2013) 'Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in North-East Nigeria', online article for CERI - Sciences Po, Paris - as part of a dossier on the Sahel:

(2013) ‘Nigeria’, in W. Slater (ed.) The Annual Register: World Events 2012. Cambridge: ProQuest.

(2012) ‘Nigeria’, in D. S. Lewis & W. Slater (eds.) The Annual Register: World Events 2011. Cambridge: ProQuest.

(2011) ‘Nigeria’, in D. S. Lewis & W. Slater (eds.) The Annual Register: World Events 2010. Cambridge: ProQuest.

(2011) The Jos Crisis: A Recurrent Nigerian Tragedy. Abuja: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

(2005) Informal Remittance Systems: Ghana Country Study. Centre on Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford. Commissioned by DFID and the EC’s Poverty Reduction Effectiveness Programme. 

(2003) Policy Levers in Ghana. Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, University of Oxford. Report for DfID.

(2003) ‘Dilemmas and Definitions in Post-Conflict Rehabilitation’, cover article in The ACP-EU Courier, No. 198, May-June 2003, pp 28-31.


Research Groups

I am part of the Oxford-based Nigeria Research Network (NRN) and the NRN's Islam Research Programme -

I am a researcher on the Bordeaux-based 'XenAfPol' project (funded by the French National Research Agency, ANR) - on 'The Politics of Xenophobic Exclusion in Africa: Mobilisations, Local Orders and Violence' -

I am also in the CRISE Network - - based at the Department of International Development, University of Oxford


Editorial Work

I am on the editorial board of Manyeng: Journal of Central Nigerian Studies, based at the Department of History and International Studies, University of Jos, Nigeria. I am also affiliated to that department as a Research Scholar.