My book, Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Democracy, and Law in Northern Nigeria (University of Chicago Press, 2016) examines the relationship between Islam and democracy through the lens of Nigeria’s controversial and divisive experiment with implementing Islamic criminal law through the democratic process in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As the Press describes it:
For generations Islamic and Western intellectuals and policymakers have debated Islam’s compatibility with democratic government, usually with few solid conclusions. But where—Brandon Kendhammer asks in this book—have the voices of ordinary, working-class Muslims been in this conversation? Doesn’t the fate of democracy rest in their hands? Visiting with community members in northern Nigeria, he tells the complex story of the stunning return of democracy to a country that has also embraced Shariah law and endured the radical religious terrorism of Boko Haram.
Kendhammer argues that despite Nigeria’s struggles with jihadist insurgency, its recent history is really one of tenuous and fragile reconciliation between mass democratic aspirations and concerted popular efforts to preserve Islamic values in government and law. Combining an innovative analysis of Nigeria’s Islamic and political history with visits to the living rooms of working families, he sketches how this reconciliation has been constructed in the conversations, debates, and everyday experiences of Nigerian Muslims. In doing so, he uncovers valuable new lessons—ones rooted in the real politics of ordinary life—for how democracy might work alongside the legal recognition of Islamic values, a question that extends far beyond Nigeria and into the Muslim world at large.
I’ve also published a number of papers, primarily on Islam and politics or federalism and ethnic conflict in Nigeria:
- “Getting Our Piece of the National Cake: Consociational Powersharing and Neopatrimonialism in Nigeria,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 21:2 (2015), pp. 143-165
- “Citizenship, Federalism, and Powersharing: Nigeria’s Federal Character and the Challenges of Institutional Design,” Ethnopolitics, 13:4 (September 2014), pp. 396-417
- “Islam and the Language of Human Rights in Nigeria: “Rights Talk” and Religion in Domestic Politics,” Journal of Human Rights, 12:4 (December 2013), pp. 469-90
- “The Sharia Controversy in Northern Nigeria and the Politics of Islamic Law in New and Uncertain Democracies,“ Comparative Politics (April 2013), 45:3, pp. 291-311
- “Talking Ethnic but Hearing Multi-Ethnic: The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria and Durable Multi-Ethnic Parties in the Midst of Violence,” (2010) Commonweath & Comparative Politics, 48:1, pp. 48-71
- “DuBois the Pan-Africanist and the Development of African Nationalism,” (2007) Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30:1, pp. 51-71