Alexander Thurston F'17
Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs 2017
Visiting Assistant Professor
Jihadism in Northwest Africa: Doctrines, Debates, and Local Politics
Prevailing explanations for the rise of jihadism tend to caricature jihadists as nihilistic opportunists, uncompromising fanatics, or outright psychopaths. This book project offers a different understanding, showing that jihadists devote substantial attention to both religious argumentation and local politics. The project addresses the recent history, doctrinal content, and local political contexts of jihadism in Mauritania, Mali, Algeria, and Libya. Drawing on a wealth of untapped primary sources in Arabic, as well as field research, the project examines Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its many offshoots, as well as North African affiliates of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The book’s findings will have implications for the study of religion and violence around the world. The project also will engage the media through the author’s blog, and by cultivating relationships with individual journalists, especially African journalists based in countries relevant to the project.