TransIslam Research Program
TransIslam is a two-year research program (2014–15) initiated by IFRA-Nigeria, funded by CSFRS, and led by a team of seven researchers from Niger, Nigeria, France and the UK.
Purpose of the Project
The area that today encompasses northern Nigeria and southern Niger has been particularly dynamic since the late-18th century: powerful Hausa commercial cities such as Kano, Katsina, Zaria, and Zinder have exerted a cultural and economic influence, while the hegemony of the Sokoto Caliphate has allowed for a broad dissemination of specific religious practices and knowledge. Today, northern Nigeria (the states of Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Borno, Katsina, Kebbi, Yobe, and Jigawa) and southern Niger (the regions of Diffa, Zinder, Maradi, Tahoua, and Dosso) still constitute a homogeneous zone, whose strong cohesion is based particularly on cultural and linguistic unity, permanent and largely informal commercial exchanges, and extensive human circulation. Islam is also an essential unifying element, one whose forms, discourse, practices, and modes of dissemination have changed. The channels through which religious ideologies are currently transmitted between northern Nigeria and southern Niger overlap with other economic and social dynamics. This region, rooted in the tradition of commerce, is a zone of passage, transit, and of numerous trades; it is a migratory, commercial, and financial crossroads. All these exchanges facilitate the transmission and dissemination of currents of thought related to Islam, especially those coming from northern Nigeria, which have a constant influence in southern Niger and beyond in neighbouring countries.
The TransIslam project will focus on the various ways in which these new thinking processes and practices of Islam emerge. First, this project will examine the appearance of ‘reformist’ movements, which were influenced by foreign models and are competing with older movements. It will then analyse the place of early Sufi movements. Deeply rooted and still constituting a large majority, these movements have adapted to contemporary dynamics and are constantly evolving. Finally, the project will aim to understand the nature and role of new radical movements.
Methodology and Schedule
The TransIslam project will use a cross-border perspective, which has so far been little developed in studies on Islam in Niger or in Nigeria. The project will therefore seek to bring together Anglophone and Francophone fields of research, which have long remained impermeable to each other. The old ties between southern Niger and northern Nigeria as well as their strong cultural and linguistic cohesion are assets which can be used in this field of research.
The project will be coordinated from Ibadan in Nigeria, while meetings and seminars planned for this project will be held in Niamey, Niger. The first meeting will take place on 18–19 March 2014 in Niamey and will bring together all the researchers for the first time. Several months will then be dedicated to fieldwork, to allow everyone to collect enough data to conduct his or her research.
The TransIslam project also aims to pay particular attention to young researchers from both Niger and Nigeria by supporting research projects related to the themes developed, through the funding of fieldwork and the publication of their research results. A call for proposals will be launched in March 2014, and the four best proposals will be selected and will each receive a €2,000 grant for fieldwork. Selected researchers will carry out field surveys in addition to those conducted by members of the TransIslam project and will present the results of their research during the final seminar. These additional and complementary activities will help young researchers develop their research skills and will make it easier for them to integrate into the academic world. This will also allow the TransIslam project to broaden its horizons.