Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye

Contact: abdoulaye.sounaye(at)zmo.de

Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye is the head of the Leibniz Junior Research Group REMOBOKO (Religion, Morality and Boko in West Africa: Students Training for a Good Life) and specializes in the study of the complex religion, state and society in West Africa, especially Niger and Nigeria. A Senior Research Fellow at Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO) in Berlin, he serves as the head of the research unit “Contested Religion: Between Religiosity, Morality, and Intellectual Culture”. Before joining ZMO in 2013, he worked as a lecturer at the Abdou Moumouni University in Niger where he has been appointed Associate Professor since 2020.

Dr. Sounaye holds a PhD in Religious Studies / Anthropology from Northwestern University (2012), an MA in Religious Studies from the Arizona State University (2003-2005) and a PhD in Philosophy from Cheick Anta University, Senegal (1996).

Selected Publications

He is the author of two monographs:

Islam et Modernité : Contribution à l’Analyse de La ré-islamisation au Niger, (L’Harmattan, 2016)

Cet essai revient sur la question de l’islam contemporain dans ses rapports multiples à la modernité en Afrique. Il expose quelques éléments d’analyse des dynamiques de réforme de l’islam dans un contexte africain à partir des années 1990. Il prend les récents développements relatifs aux religiosités musulmanes au Niger comme objet de réflexion et s’interroge sur les habits théoriques et les catégories conceptuelles qui nous servent à comprendre ce phénomène social, politique, mais aussi philosophique. Voici un essai de théorisation des dynamiques africaines contemporaines.

Muslim Critics of Secularism: Ulama and Democratization in Niger, (Lambert Academic, 2010)

One of the marking features of the 1990s democratization in Niger has been the rise of a variety of Islamic discourses. Laïcité has been among their major preoccupations. For many ulama this secularism contradicts Niger’s religious identity. Three voices are presented: the Collaborators, the Moderates and the Despisers. Each group seeks to influence the political and ideological make-up of the state. Although ulama in general remain critical of the state ideological transformation, not all of them reject the separation from religion clause. The Collaborators suggest cooperation between the religious and the political authorities; the Moderates demand governance to accommodate people’s will; and the Despisers reject the liberalism that voids religious authority and demand a total re-islamization. I argue that what is at stake is less the separation between state and religion as its modality and impact on religious authority. The targets, tones and justification of the discourses I explore show the limitations of a democratization project grounded in laïcité. Thus, in place of a secular democratization, ulama propose a conservative democracy based on Islam.