dates de séjour
projet de recherche
Boko Haram, Media and the Security Discourse
Since the 1990s, postcolonial space has been associated with a network of meanings, whose common denominator is instability, a discourse the media further propagates (Chrétien, 1995 ; Nyamnjoh, 2005 ; Frère, 2007 ; Tcheuyap, 2003, 2014). The recent appearance of Boko Haram has expanded the cartography of violence. With groups scattered beyond Nigeria, Boko Haram has wreaked havoc upon the geopolitics of violence, signalling a veritable transmutation: while the number of wars has not increased, terrorist organizations have transformed the appearance of pre-existing conflicts. No longer involving two armies and thus less asymmetrical, “invisible” enemies are constructed on a terrain where the “law of war” (or various conventions, for what they are worth), does not exist. Moreover, what is new is that Boko Haram does not claim to actually be at “war”: the group terrorizes civilians, while states openly declare “war” against them.
In its various forms, this violence had until recently fuelled news coverage in four ways: literary representations, media transmission, intellectual production and finally, research reports or “expert” studies. With the appearance of Boko Haram, only the last three categories (Gibbaud, 2013, 2014 ; Higazi, 2013 ; Koungou, 2014 ; Pérouse de Montclos, 2012 ; Zenn, 2012) and reports on strategic studies outline an understanding of the dynamics this terrorist group.
The only study on media coverage of Islamist terror Nigeria is by I.S. Popoola (2012). This study however warrants re-evaluation for several reasons. First, it is restricted to a local assessment of the situation, whilst the group’s attacks are as of now spreading to Chad, Niger and Cameroon. In addition, since the publication of this contribution, the group returned to the headlines of newspapers worldwide with the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Chibok. Finally, the author’s approach is based on institutional analysis whereas my project gives prominence to the analysis of media content.
This project addresses a gap in current research by providing a scientific evaluation of media discourse on Boko Haram. Western media outlets seem unanimous regarding the monstrosity of the massacres perpetrated by this group, whereas in the countries concerned, journalists often go beyond humanitarian indignation. While the Western press generally limits itself to security, the media in countries dealing with this conflict offer other interpretations. For example, they deny the existence of Boko Haram, which is sometimes reduced to a Western conspiracy, or they address insecurity as offering political opportunities to corrupt governments. There has been no systematic study of the often contradictory ways that media rationalize not only the attacks, but also the political issues that its emergence suggests in the discourse on insecurity.
Alexie Tcheuyap is Full Professor at the Department of French of the University of Toronto. He holds a Doctorat de Troisième Cycle in Literature from the University of Yaoundé and a PhD in French Studies from Queen's University.
His main areas of reserch are media studies, Francophone African literatures and Francophone African cinemas.