Searching for Boko Haram: A History of Violence in Central Africa

Scott MacEachern. Oxford Univ., $29.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-19-049252-6
MacEachern, an anthropology professor who has a Ph.D. in archeology and extensive experience working in the Central African area south of Lake Chad, looks chronologically at the long record of violence in central Africa through the lens of his archeological and anthropological work in the region, particularly the frontiers and boundary zones where cultures and nations (Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad) mix. Despite the book’s title, he focuses less on geopolitics and Boko Haram than on describing the culture of central Africa, where he is at his best. For example, he elucidates tribal relations and linguistic ties that have existed for hundreds of years: “Populations around Lake Chad were marked not only by a diversity of origins and different cultures and languages but also by close biological relationships and intense interactions. Any communal violence... would probably have been wars among neighbors,... characteristic of more recent times in this region as well.” He makes the point that banditry, smuggling, and government corruption are endemic and accepted as normal; that culture, he argues, is largely what permits Boko Haram to exist and sustain itself. MacEachern’s work will be useful for specialists in a variety of fields. However, it is not a political analysis of Boko Haram, and readers may need previous knowledge of the politics and history of central Africa to get the most out of it. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 02/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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