Interview with Prof. Dr. Bruno Reinhardt

At the final Remoboko conference in Berlin, Hala Mardini interviewed Bruno Reinhardt, whose extensive research spans religious education and institution building in both Ghana and Brazil. Drawing on years of dedicated ethnographic work, he provided valuable insights into religious education and the process of training pastors in Ghana. Prof Reinhardt shed light on the intricate connections and aspirations within this field, offering a brief yet deeper understanding of its dynamics.

Interview with Prof. Olutayo C. Adesina

During the final Remoboko conference in Berlin, Hala Mardini interviewed Prof. Olutayo C. Adesina on issues related to religiosity, politics and universities. In this interview, Prof. Adesina delves into his extensive research on the intersection of religiosity, politics and academia within the Nigerian university system. His insights shed light on the complex dynamics between faith, learning and political influence in this context. Prof Adesina also shares valuable perspectives on the Remoboko project and reflects on the highlights of our final conference.

Three Questions to Dr. Chikas Ishaku Tsilpi

Religiosity on Campus: A study of Charismatic Christian and Muslim Groups in Selected Universities in Northern Nigeria

Universities in northern Nigeria are witnessing a proliferation of Charismatic Christian and Muslim groups. These groups, which usually serve as platforms for spiritual strengthening and reawakening, also provide spaces for social interactions and political mobilization. Consequently, the increased presence of these groups is changing the dynamics of the religious and secular spaces on University campuses across northern Nigeria. This situation raises questions on religiosity and how it provides meaning for everyday life and interaction among Christian and Muslim students. The paper therefore, interrogates the phases of change characterizing the emergence of Pentecostal and Salafi Groups on the University of Jos campus. Based on in-depth empirical research, the paper particularly examines the role of religiosity on the academic, social and political lives of Christian and Muslim students. It further interrogates some of the factors accounting for the surge in the presence of Charismatic Christian and Muslim groups as well as the policies regulating their activities on Campus. The paper argues that the emergence of charismatic groups existing side by side with more traditional groups like the Fellowship of Christian Students and Muslim Students Society indicates a religious denominational competition for space, which sometimes leads to clashes, as each group seeks to express its presence and compete for membership. Furthermore, because of their charismatic and innovative disposition, these groups are very attractive to students, leading some to renounce western education in search of more spiritual knowledge. 

Dr. Chikas Danfulani Tsilpi
Department of Religion and Philosophy
University of Jos, Nigeria

Three Questions to Dr. Mutiat Titilope Oladejo

Dr Mutiat Titilope Oladejo
Department of history
University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Mutiat Titilope Oladejo is lecturer of the Department of History, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Leibniz Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany. She is a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)  and Council for Development of Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA).

Three Questions to Dr. Pedro Monaville

You recently finished a book about students politics in the Congo. Can you tell us more about this project?

The book is currently titled Students of the World: Decolonization and the Global 1960s in the Congo.

It will be published by Duke University Press in the Spring of 2022.

The main intervention of the book is to replace the Congo within the global 1960s and to show that students in Kinshasa were as important a political force in their country, as student protesters were in Berkley, Berlin, Mexico, Paris, and Rio.

Like their peers around the world, students in the Congo were deeply internationalists and imagined and real connections with distant people, ideas, and struggles shaped their perception of politics in the Congo.

My book is also an attempt at revisiting the history of the Congo’s decolonization, and particularly to understand the impact of the Congo crisis of the early 1960s and of the Mobutu dictatorship on the invention of independent Congolese statehood.

During your talk, you explained that Lumumba was a major figure for Congolese students in the 1960s. What explains his influence over them?

Lumumba’s assassination had indeed a major impact on the trajectory of student politics. In the mid-1950s, the Belgian state had finally authorized the opening of a university for the colonized, based on the idea that higher education would produce “moderate” Congolese who would be willing to work hand in hand with the Belgians and who would counter the influence of anticolonial politicians.

Initially, many students indeed were critical of the radical anticolonialism of Lumumba. Actually, in the aftermath of President Kasa-Vubu’s dismissal of Lumumba as Prime Minister in 1960, the government that Mobutu put in place to replace Lumumba’s executive was made exclusively of university students and recent graduates. These students were in charge when Lumumba was arrested and then sent to Katanga, where he was assassinated in January 1961.

However, the assassination reverberated very strongly among the Congolese educated youth and it created a shift towards the left. The fate of Lumumba opened the eyes of many about the nature of neo-colonialism. What I also argue in the book is that the worldwide emotion around Lumumba’s assassination mattered a great deal in students’ awakening to left nationalism. It was through their association with the figure of Lumumba that they existed in the eyes of the world, and this new Lumumbist identity was key in opening up doors through the decades.

What the role of Catholicism in student politics in the Congo in the 1960s?

The Catholic church dominated the education sector in the Congo. Most students had been trained in Catholic seminaries and high schools. After independence, the Church became an even more important institution, in great part because it was able to maintain its resources and structures while the crisis of the early 1960s had seriously undermined state capabilities.

At the same time, there were conversations within Catholic intellectual circles about the decolonization of the Church and of Catholic liturgy. These discussions percolated among students and influenced to some degrees students’ understanding of cultural nationalism.

Yet, for an increasing number of students in the 1960s, the Church was seen as a conservative force – still very much a colonial institution. The main university in the country, Lovanium, was a Catholic institution, but many students there resented the relative rigidity of Catholic education. For them, Catholicism embodied the right, and in contrast they saw themselves as a left avant-garde, and many embraced various forms of socialism.

However, it is also striking to note how many people form this generation returned to the church later in their life, and how they used religion as a resource in the political during the tensed period of democratization in the early 1990s.

Three Questions to Dr. Anne Heffernan

Professor in Southern African History, Durham University

What was the role of Christian student associations in anti-apartheid activism?

Christian student organizations played a number of roles in the anti-apartheid struggle, and these differed somewhat over time. In the period I discussed in my talk – the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s – these associations were one of the principal ways that students on black campuses were permitted to organise themselves when other types of student associations (especially overtly political ones) were banned. As a result, some of these groups came to take on more and more political activism. This was not seen as a conflict with their religious identity – to the contrary, for many students their identity as Christians carried with it an imperative to seek social justice. In the context of apartheid South Africa that meant challenging the politics of the state.

Can you tell us more about the emergence of Black theology (or Black Consciousness) at the University of the North (South Africa)?

Black Theology emerged first as a project of the University Christian Movement (UCM), which was formed in 1967 and had a presence on both black and white university campuses. Although UCM was founded at Rhodes University, a white campus, it quickly became more prominent on black campuses around the country, like the University of the North. I would argue that this was because student associations and organizations were more restricted on black campuses; for instance, the National Union of South African Students (the biggest student organization in the country) had been banned from forming a branch on the campus of the University of the North. As a result, religious organizations like UCM took a more prominent role in campus life, and especially in campus politics.

UCM was very concerned to join their religious convictions with their political ones; this was an ecumenical Christian organization, and, as I mentioned above, it was deeply committed to the cause of social justice and opposing the oppression of the apartheid state. Black Theology was the project that embodied bringing those aims and influences (religious and political) together. Black Theology drew heavily on the ideas of liberation theology, which came out of South American Catholicism, and its most prominent proponent was James Cone, a black American theologian. It emphasizes the idea that traditions of biblical exegesis and interpretation have been shaped by white supremacy, and argues that only by returning to the radical pro-poor, anti-exclusionary teachings of Jesus in the gospels could Christianity become relevant to black people. Cone argued this for black Americans, and student activists in South Africa adopted his ideas for their own context. Black Theology demanded an active form of Christianity – it called on adherents to challenge injustices like apartheid, and to seek liberation in this world, not just ultimate salvation after death.

These messages were especially compelling on campuses like the University of the North, where black students experienced many of apartheid’s exclusions and indignities on a daily basis. Christianity was also the dominant religion on campus, and there were more Christian student groups than any other, so for many students this connection of their faith to their experience of politics was very generative and exciting. It is one of the reasons UCM was so prominent on campus in the late 1960s.

In your presentation, you said that the University Christian Movement is becoming a secular space (what is how she framed it? Or secular theology?). What do you mean by that?

Over the five years of its existence (1967-1972) I think it’s fair to say that UCM became increasingly more secular – or at least less bound by any traditional frameworks of Christianity. It was founded as an ecumenical organization with support from five churches (Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregationalis). But by the early 1970s they were disengaging from using language about God or recognizing Christ as divine. Generally this was an effort to be more and more inclusive of the range of beliefs (and explorations) of its members. Many became disaffected with formal church structures during this period; in some cases this was because of churches’ conciliatory politics with the state, but also because of what were considered outdated social and sexual codes of ethics imposed by churches. UCM was very much a product of its time – a student organization of the late 1960s – and it became deeply involved in countercultural politics. But nonetheless UCM – and, importantly, the South African Students Organisation, which was formed after UCM and was even more prominent on black campuses – maintained much of the spirituality that characterized it earlier. Many members still identified as Christian, even though some were disaffected with their churches, and they used religious language and imagery to describe their work: SASO spoke of its movement having ‘bishops’, ‘prophets’ and ‘martyrs’. Dan Magaziner describes this approach as a kind of ‘secular theology’ (Magaziner, The Law and the Prophets, p. 77) and I think he is right to point to the fact that explicitly political organizations like SASO retained religious imagery and idioms even as explicitly religious organizations like UCM became less bound by strictures of organized religion. I do not think this ‘secularization’ represents a disaffection with spirituality – even as some students broke with religious organizations like churches, most maintained aspects of belief in God. And it is important to note that this spread of ‘secular theology’ was relatively contained to the most radical students on campuses. Many students who were practicing Christians were dismayed by the UCM’s break with more formal church-based theology. After UCM dissolved itself, the most prominent religious group to emerge as a political force on the campus of the University of the North – the Students’ Christian Movement – took a much more conventionally Christian approach to theology, and did not overtly challenge the religious teachings of the churches its members came from (although it did sometimes challenge the political positions of those churches).

Trois questions à Dr. Guy Bucumi

Chercheur postdoctoral et chargé de cours à la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Sherbrooke.

En parlant des trajectoires de la laïcité et des rapports entre l’État et la religion en Afrique, vous suggérez une laïcité de compromis. Que voulez-vous dire par là ? Voulez-vous expliquer ?

Lorsqu’on analyse de près l’histoire des relations religions-États en Afrique, on est frappé par l’ambiguïté qui les a toujours caractérisée : complicité, tensions et parfois persécutions selon les temps et les lieux. Le principe de laïcité-séparation à la française, adopté par les constitutions africaines francophones essentiellement, est aujourd’hui à l’épreuve de la forte religiosité qui caractérise les sociétés africaines.

Les religions ont toujours été des acteurs essentiels de la vie publique de ces régions et les périodes de crises institutionnelles se sont toujours accompagnées d’une activité religieuse particulièrement forte. On pense aux religions traditionnelles ancestrales, mais aussi, naturellement, aux missions de l’époque coloniale, à leur rôle dit civilisateur, à leur implication dans l’enseignement ou l’assistance avant la période d’anticléricalisme virulent lors de la décolonisation, qui suivit l’accès à l’indépendance des États africains. On connait davantage la participation active de l’Église catholique et notamment des évêques dans les processus démocratiques ou dans le fonctionnement de conférences nationales souveraines qui furent constituées pratiquement dans tous les États africains francophones dans les années 1990. Celles-ci, présidées par un évêque, étaient en charge de la réorganisation globale du pays; elles eurent pour mission de redéfinir les valeurs fondamentales de l’État en veillant à l’instauration d’un État de droit et d’une démocratie pluraliste. De nouvelles expressions religieuses se développèrent alors sans entrave. Cette histoire où religion et politique s’entrecroisent constamment, pour collaborer ou pour s’affronter, constitue une donnée spécifique aux États africains, caractère qui perdure aujourd’hui, même si tant les religions que les pouvoirs publics connaissent de profondes mutations

Par la reconnaissance du fait religieux comme l’une des marques spécifiques de leurs sociétés, es États gagneraient, dans l’adoption d’un modèle de laïcité favorisant une étroite collaboration, une garantie de cohésion et un équilibre socio-politique. L’équilibre social et le respect de cette particularité africaine, en la matière, seront à ce prix. En effet, si les principes ne sont pas compris de manière univoque, on imagine combien il peut s’avérer complexe de les traduire dans les faits de  homogène. Il donc souvent complexe de déterminer les modalités  et de réalisation de la laïcité. Face à cette difficulté, la mise en œuvre de la laïcité se fait alors dans la négociation. Entre l’application stricte du principe de la laïcité et sa remise en cause actuelle, c’est la voie des compromis qui doit alors être privilégiée. Ce processus serait le fruit d’une recherche d’un entre-deux : le maintien d’un principe jugé nécessaire et la production d’une solution acceptée localement par les différents acteurs.

Vous dites que l’Afrique est un terrain d’expérimentation religieuse. Comment en sommes-nous arrivés à cela ? Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus?

Le continent africain est un terrain fertile pour les expérimentations religieuse du fait de l’attachement des sociétés africaines à la spiritualité. La prolifération des nouveaux mouvements auquel on assiste actuellement, qu’il s’agisse du courant évangélique ou du salafisme, n’es donc pas une surprise, . l’attachement des populations africaines à la religion, ou aux religions, est bien connue.

 Depuis l’époque précoloniale, les sociétés africaines ont toujours puisé leurs racines dans une norme fondamentale transcendante, ayant valeur constitutionnelle : la loi divine. Vécue comme une exigence sacrée, cette règle fondamentale y a toujours été respectée, conservée et transmise de génération en génération. En effet, l’un des traits caractéristiques des sociétés africaines précoloniales a toujours été leur référence au sacré. Le constitutionnaliste camerounais Maurice Kamto affirme, quant à lui, que  « c’est un fait constant que dans l’Afrique noire précoloniale, le pouvoir est investi de sacralité […]. Le sacré fondait le pouvoir en Afrique précoloniale, le sacré délimitait également les modalités du contrôle du pouvoir »[1]. Malgré l’existence de différents mécanismes d’exercice et de régulation du pouvoir, le sacré, poursuit-il, continuait à conférer aux sociétés africaines précoloniales, une cohérence rigoureuse.Toutes les activités sociales et politiques, les modes de pensée et d’actions s’en imprégnaient.

Dans votre communication, vous avez parlé aussi de paradoxes d’une laïcité importée. On se demande bien ce que recouvre cette notion et les enjeux que porte la laïcité aujourd’hui?

Dans l’histoire juridique contemporaine, peu de mots sont davantage chargés de passion, mais aussi d’ambiguïté, que celui de laïcité. De fait, le terme est diversement interprété. Ce conflit inhérent à la notion de laïcité pourrait s’expliquer, selon le juriste Jean Rivero, par le fait que, « contrairement à la plupart d’autres doctrines qui ne bénéficient que d’un “seul père”, et donc d’un seul et même esprit qui les a pensées et organisées, la laïcité est “un carrefour” : des courants d’une extrême diversité y convergent »[2]. Sa polysémie a amené certains auteurs à ne plus recourir à la définition de la laïcité pour l’expliquer, affirmant qu’« elle ne se définit pas, elle se sent, elle se vit… »[3].

La laïcité est un cadre de régulations des relations religions-État, Elle doit répondre, sur un plan juridique, aux nouveaux enjeux des relations religions-État marquées, en Afrique, par la recomposition sociologique et religieuse actuelle. Le contexte actuel,marqué par la prolifération des nouveaux mouvements religieux, incite à s’interroger sur la mise en œuvre d’une nouvelle interprétation des règles applicables à la question religieuse. En effet, l’argument est que le principe de laïcité ne peut plus être interprété de la même manière du fait des transformations sociales et religieuses intervenues.

Si la laïcité va de pair avec la liberté religieuse, elle a, pour ses autres caractères, des définitions multiples ; concept valise, affirme Didier Leschi signifiant ainsi les contenus incessamment renouvelés qui doivent faire figurer sous ce terme. Il conviendrait, dans le cadre de l’Afrique, d’inventer une forme de laïcité combinant le respect de la diversité religieuse avec les collaborations décisives que les religions ont toujours entretenues avec les autorités publiques. Collaborations nécessaires dont le droit doit néanmoins préciser strictement les conditions d’exercice.

[1] m. kamto, Pouvoir et droit en Afrique noire, Paris, LGDJ, 1987, p. 11.

[2] j. rivero, « De l’idéologie à la règle de droit : la notion de laïcité dans la jurisprudence administrative », La laïcité, Actes de la 6è session du Centre de sciences politiques de l’Institut d’études juridiques de Nice, Université d’Aix-Marseille, Paris, PUF, 1960, p. 265.

[3] j. rivero Ibid., p. 266.

Trois questions à Dr. Issouf Binaté

Professeur d’histoire à l’Université Alassane Ouattara de Bouaké, en Côte d’Ivoire

Votre recherche touche à la coopération entre la Turquie et les pays africains. Comment celle-ci se distingue-t-elle de la coopération avec d’autres pays musulmans tels que l’Arabie Saoudite ou le Maroc ?

La coopération entre la Turquie et l’Afrique se distingue par l’engagement des acteurs turcs sur le terrain. En effet, l’Arabie saoudite et bien d’autres pays arabo-musulmans ont une longue tradition de coopération avec les pays africains, mais ces relations ont eu la particularité d’avoir évolué en pointillé suivant le rythme imposé par la crise israélo-palestinienne et le postulat de l’islam. A la différence de ces pays, la Turquie, elle, est engagée dans une ambition de positionnement géostratégique dans le monde où l’Afrique a toujours présenté un enjeu majeur. Dans cette dynamique, elle n’a pas lésiné sur les moyens pour sa politique d’internationalisation s’apparentant à un Soft Power, pour reprendre l’expression de Joseph Nye, dans le cadre de la politique extérieure des USA lors de la guerre froide. Cet engagement s’est voulu global visant à la fois la coopération politique et socioéconomique avec des acteurs de sa société civile et ses hommes d’affaires dont les interventions sur le terrain de l’éducation, l’islam et l’humanitaire ont réussi à donner de la visibilité sociale à la Turquie en Afrique de l’Ouest, en l’espace de deux décennies.

Pourquoi et comment l’enseignement et la formation sont-ils devenus des secteurs importants de la coopération entre la Turquie et l’Afrique subsaharienne ? Que lire derrière cette dynamique ?

La Turquie est dans une démarche de positionnement sur l’échiquier mondial. Cette ambition ne peut se faire sans inclure une politique visant l’éducation et la formation des élites du continent, surtout sa jeunesse. En accordant un intérêt particulier à ce pan de la coopération, avec des programmes de bourses d’études initiés par l’Etat – à travers Diyanet et YTB (Yurtdışı Türkler ve Akraba Topluluklar Başkanlığı [littéralement, « direction de la diaspora turque et des communautés liées »])– et ses partenaires sociaux dont les fondations religieuses en l’occurrence Aziz Mahmud Vakfi, Hizmet (mouvement de Fethulla Gülen en crise avec Ankara) et Sulemancu, la Turquie a misé sur l’avenir en finançant la formation des jeunes. En l’espace de 20 ans de présence, les résultats de ces investissements sont déjà visibles. Le pays compte à ce jours des milliers d’étudiants issus de l’Afrique dont certains en fin de formation ont décidé de s’y établir ou servir de médiateurs économiques entre leurs hôtes et le continent africain.

Quelle importance la religion a-t-elle dans les phénomènes de mobilité estudiantine que vous étudiez, notamment avec les étudiants africains en Turquie ?

Il reste évident qu’on ne saurait dissocier la Turquie de l’islam. En allant à la conquête de l’Afrique, il devenait incontournable que cette mission d’internationalisation de la Turcité inclut cette religion, un marqueur identitaire important de ce pays de l’Eurasie. Ce volet religieux de la coopération tient une place de choix dans les rapports Afrique – Turquie, surtout dans la mesure où l’Etat turc y est partie prenante – à travers son institution en charge des affaires religieuse, Diyanet – aux côtés des fondations religieuses, notamment Aziz Mahmud Vakfi, Hizmet et Sulemancu, dont la mission reste de faire des émules en Afrique. Cette ambition affichée passe par une éducation islamique de la jeunesse à travers certaines écoles turques déjà présentes sur le continent et d’autres en Turquie.

Three Questions to Dr. Tatiana Smirnova

Postdoctoral Researcher at Centre FrancoPaix in Conflict Resolution and Peace Missions Chaire Raoul-Dandurand

Based on your research, what are the most significant watershed moment(s)/important junctures in student activism in Niger since independence until 1991?

My research on student activism in Niger has shown that from independence to 1991 important moments of the movement were systematically advanced by “abeyance” periods, allowing for better organization both on a structural and ideological levels and therefore making the critical junctures possible. These “junctures” could be also referred to as specific windows of political action which found various outlets for expression depending on the form of state power as well as the form and methods of activism. All in all, from 1960 to 1991, there are four specific junctions  I could identify.

The first significant moment relates to the strikes of the early 1970s and specifically to January 1972, coinciding with the first official visit of President Georges Pompidou of France when a student threw a tomato that stained the French president’s jacket. The paternalistic and relatively tolerant reaction of the authorities allowed for strikes to continue and the discontent grew through 1972-1973, stimulated by drought and food shortages. Diori’s unpopular regime fell in April 1974 after a military coup led by lieutenant-colonel Seyni Kountché.

The second important moment in the history of the student movement relates to November 1976, when high school students initiated a wave of protests that pushed authorities to close down schools for the entire 1976-1977 academic year. The government’s repressive response to the strikes finally forced activists to go underground. However, some form of protests continued, reinforcing ideological and organizational structures. Consequently, the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s became a true ‘golden age’ for the activist movement.

The third moment corresponds to the strikes of 1982 and 1983. After a brief period of internal divisions between 1976 and 1979, students developed a clever strategy in order to force authorities to directly negotiate with them. The negotiations that took place in 1982 were unprecedented in the history of the student movement at that time. The strategy of the movement consisted in putting authorities under the pressure through a series of strikes launched before French president, François Mitterand’s visit to Niger in 1982. The memories of the “tomato accident” of 1972 pushed authorities to open discussions with the movement and sign the document officially recognizing the student organization, USN (Union des Scolaires Nigériens). Consequently, the 1982 negotiations between the government representatives and the USN leaders were a clear indication of a break within the dominant political order: now, it was students who made political authorities negotiate with them, not the other way around. The next strike, the one of May 1983 was severely repressed: students leaders were imprisoned, others – managed to escape to the neighboring countries. The student organization’s apparent withdrawal from the political arena allowed activists to distance themselves from direct confrontations with authorities, instead developing and strengthening their political ideas, particularly through alliances with other social groups, such as civil servants and teachers. The result was a far more organized politically sophisticated ideological struggle, led also underground – that resulted in a creation of a political party with a strong social support in 1990.

The fourth critical juncture of the student movement was the student march of February 9, 1990 that created a political moment allowing for other social forces (including clandestine) to mobilize claiming the National Conference, multipartisme and regime change. The multipartisme was proclaimed in December 1990 and the National Conference took place between July and November 1991.  

Could you tell us more about ‘violence’ as a form of political and social regulation on campus? What is particular about this regulation?

The University is a space where violence has been always exercised in a recurrent manner, literally and figuratively, by students but also by the State. From its creation, the University of Niamey has been in line with the colonial education project, thus reproducing the mechanisms of violence that were deeply rooted in the system. Such continuity could be observed in the objectives of the educational system, in the curriculum, through the language of instruction, selectivity of the system and important presence of French cooperants (at least until middle 1990th). Furthermore, through 1960th-1980th violence was going well beyond the specific domain of higher education. It has also been a routine phenomenon, an integral part of the institutional mechanisms of the State: if we think in particular of the violent repression of Sawaba, the main opposition movement on the eve of and just after independence, of the 1974 coup d’état as well as of the 1983 coup attempt, or of the repression of the Tuareg rebellion in 1985, or even of the actions of the political police that existed under the military regime of Seyni Kountché.

The early 1990th and beginning of the 2000th were followed by massive student mobilizations against Structural Adjustment Programs and subsequent reforms of higher education. The images of burned cars, broken windows – as well as those of wounded activists with their heads bleeding – used to feed the media narrative of student violence as something “compulsive”. However, reducing violence solely to irrationality poses the problem of the social responsibility of the actors and mechanisms that are the carriers of this violence.

Therefore, in my research, I follow the analytical perspective that proposes – rather than analyzing the confrontations between students and security forces in terms of dysfunction of the academic system – to show that contestation, including in a violent form, is a constitutive part of public action in higher education in Niger.

Thus, one of the objectives of my work was to draw attention to the need to go beyond a schematic distinction between public policies (responsible and relational) – on the one hand, and violence (irrational) on the other, as if the former (associated with the Sate) were “normal” and the latter (social contest in its most violent form) “pathological”. The point I am making is relates to the importance to comprehend the responsibility of actors, but also the limits of violence. Violence as means of political and social regulation is thus closely related to “responsibility” and “limits”. And comprehending this process needs further research, going beyond student campus. 

Drawing on your research, how do you explain the importance of transnational connections (global “left”) in shaping student activism in Niger?

The importance of these transnational connections can be explained by different factors. First, by the historical context of the emergence and development of higher education in Niger. Indeed, the Center of Higher Education in Niamey (Centre d’Enseignement Supérieur / CES) was created relatively late – only in 1970. Before the creation of the CES and even after its transformation into the University in 1973 – at least until late 1970s, most students pursued higher education abroad, mostly in West Africa or in France. Thus, the connections with the “global left” were deeply related with student experiences abroad namely, with the Black African Students Federation in France (FEANF, Fédération des Etudiants d’Afrique Noir en France).  Secondly, the connections with the “global left” were also fed by the influence exercised by the URSS embassy through the distribution of ideological literature or organization of exhibitions. 

It is also important to underline that while staying connected to the “global left”, school and student contest is also deeply rooted in the violence exercised by the authorities during the colonial period and early post-colonial period. In my research I also show how a broader “left” narrative was also deeply rooted in the local activism on different levels. For example, through the creation of clandestine radical leftist groups in the 1970th – 1980th, but also, in daily activist experience via the organization of strikes, ideological debates or via different ways of semi-clandestine work.

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