Posts Tagged 'Marquette history department'

Historians Working: Awards Season

Late winter and spring are often called “award season” by show-business types: the Golden Globes and Oscars, the Grammys and Tonys—the list goes on and on.

Spring is also award season for academics, and MU Historians have had a very good year! Here’s a list of the grants and awards our friends and colleagues in the history department have earned this year.  Scroll down and you’ll see more detailed descriptions of their projects.

Tim McMahon: Way Klingler Humanities Fellowship

Jenn Finn: Way Klingler Young Scholar Award; Scott R. Jacobs Fund Fellowship for Studies on Alexander the Great

Bryan Rindfleisch: Way Klingler Young Scholar Award; Bright InstituteFellow,Knox College

Kristen Foster: Summer Faculty Fellowship

Chima Korieh: Regular Research Grant/Summer Faculty Fellowship

Cory Haala: Schmitt Fellowship, MU;Paul Simon Congressional Papers Travel Stipend; Dirksen Congressional Research Grant

Lisa Lamson: Center for Transnational Justice Graduate Student Research Grant; Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship, Maryland Historical Society; MU Graduate School Dean’s Research Enhancement Award

Luke Greenwalt: Center for Transnational Justice Graduate Student Research Grant

Sam Harshner: Colonial Dames Research Fellowship

Ben Nestor: Funded Attendee: Teaching Anti-Semitism in the Twenty-First Century, York University (Canada)

Maggie Nettesheim-Hoffman: Travel grant from the Economic History Society at the London School of Economics; Tilly Award from the Social Science History Association.

Laura Matthew: Mellon Grant—“Remembering Madre Rosa: Oral Histories of a Marquette Doctor in Highland Guatemala, 1962-1992.”

Alison Efford: Mellon Grant—“HIST 4120 Collaboration with St. Rafael School to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee,”

Lezlie Knox: Mentor of the Year, Arts and Sciences

Jolene Kreisler: Outstanding Staff Member of the Year, Arts and Sciences

Major faculty research awards: The University makes several research awards funded by the Way Klingler fund each; the awards are made at the Distinguished Scholars Reception every March.  This year three historians were recognized for the past accomplishments and for their ongoing research.

Tim McMahon became the first member of the department to receive a Way Klingler Humanities Fellowship—only one is awarded each year, and it provides $20,000 in research funding for three years. Tim’s book focuses on a pivotal moment in modern British and Irish history—that is, the establishment of two separate states on the island of Ireland in 1921-22.  He seeks to understand the emergence of two distinct national identities in Ireland between 1910 and 1930, building on sociologist Rogers Brubaker’s insight that group identities are not static but occur as events in time that are changeable and analyzable. What makes the presence of the Irish border so important to understanding identity formation in the 1920s is that neither Irish nationalists nor unionists had proposed dividing the island in any serious way prior to 1918. Once the Tim acceptsboundary was in place, however, conflicting forces associated with state-formation on the one hand and civil society on the other created a new dynamic, as island-wide institutions (such as churches) and trade networks adapted to link people in new ways. Indeed, until late in 1925, many thought that the border might cease to exist because Irish and British negotiators had agreed to create a boundary commission to assess exchanging territory according to “the will of the people.” That phrase and the mechanism of a commission to assess the popular “will” came almost directly from the treaties written at the Versailles Conference of 1919, and in fact, staff who served on the Irish Boundary Commission had experience serving on similar commissions in central Europe after Versailles. Placing the Irish case into this context is, thus, critical to understanding what the state actors believed they were doing. But it goes only a limited way toward helping historians assess how the people of Ireland—and especially the people along the new border—saw themselves before the boundary existed, while its existence remained in doubt, or after the British and Irish governments suppressed the Commission’s recommendations. (The border remains intact to this day.) Tracking opinions about border identities before and after partition will enable Tim to move beyond the rhetoric of those claiming to speak on behalf of “Irish” nationalists or “British” unionists to assess the wider population’s own self-conceptions, pace Brubaker. Given the ongoing importance of partition in Ireland and elsewhere in the former British Empire, as well as the implications of the Brexit referendum, a detailed study of identity formation on this frontier has both historical and contemporary resonance.

Bryan Rindfleisch and Jenn Finn became the third and fourth historians to receive Way Klingler Young Scholar Awards(their awards also mark the first time two members of a humanities department have earned the awards in the same year). The awards provide a semester sabbatical and $2000 of research funding.

Bryan acceptsBryan’s first book, George Galphin’s Intimate Empire: Intercultural Family, Trade, & Colonialism in Early America, will be published by the University of Alabama Press in 2019. His new project, for which he was named a Way Klingler Young Scholar, is tentatively called From Creek (Mvskoke) to Cherokee (Tsalagi):The Entangled Histories of Native America, 1600-1800. Bryan’s ambitious goalis to change the ways in which historians understand and articulate the history of Native America by demonstrating the complex and multi-dimensional inter-connections of Indigenous societies in Early America.  His topic will be the intertwined histories of the Creek and Cherokee tribes in the eighteenth century southeast, who through intermarriage and other connections came to share territory and to live in shaed communities.  This led a younger generation of Creeks and Cherokees assert their own political interests separate from that of the traditional structures of authority in their societies. “This,” as Bryan says, “only scratches the surface of many such intersections between Native groups in Early America.”

            Jenn published her first book,Much Ado about Marduk: Questioning Discourses of Royalty in First Millennium Mesopotamian Literature, a year ago. Her Way Klingler Young Scholar award will further her work on a second book, History Rewritten: Revisionism in/on the Age of Alexander the Great,will focus on specific—though not mutually exclusive—ways in which history was represented both during and after Alexander’s Jenn acceptsreign. She will accomplish this through a series of case studies that examine the ways in which Alexander himself—as well as those who recorded his history many centuries later—manipulated received narratives of Mediterranean history to create something entirely new in their own period. In addition to helping  us understanding the phenomenon of historical revisionism, a major goal of the book is to make ancient history accessible to a wider audience of scholars in the Humanities.

Bryan received another honor this spring: he is one of fourteen members of the first cohort of fourteen fellows in the newly established Bright Institute at Knox College, a program for professors who teach early American history at liberal arts colleges. They will attend a two-week, in-residence summer seminar for three years on the Knox campus. Each year’s seminar will be co-hosted by an eminent professor of American history before 1848 and a pedagogical consultant who will help participants turn their research into incisive classroom opportunities.

Read more about this exciting program at https://www.knox.edu/news/bright-institute-announces-first-cohort-of-scholars.

Jenn also received a $2500 research grant from the Scott R. Jacobs Fund Fellowship for Studies on Alexander the Great; it will help fund a research trip to Greece late in the summer.

The Committee on Research offers a number of Summer Faculty Fellowships (SFF) every year, along with Regular Research Grants (RRG). The former pays for two months of time to write or do research; the latter provides funding for travel to archives and other research costs.  This year, two history faculty received grants this year.

Kristin Foster also received an SFF for “Finding Cato Adams,” which is part of a larger book manuscript entitled Haiti’s Mirror: Reflections of Race, Revolution, and Equality in Early Americathat sets American ideas about equality in the context of the revolutionary Atlantic World. “Finding Cato Adams” seeks to recover the lives of free black citizens in Foster01the early Mid-Atlantic. To date, scholars have argued that the founding generation did not support racial equality in early America. This project questions and complicates this argument by asserting that the first generation of Americans shaped a republic of propertied citizens, only moving to a white man’s republic after the violence of the Haitian Revolution. While the voices of Cato Adams and hundreds of free black heads of households in the 1790 census have been hushed by time and distance, their lives are significant as testimonies of black citizenship in revolutionary-era America.

Chima Korieh received a Regular Research Grant and a Summer Faculty Fellowship for Chima-Korieha project tentatively called “The Genuine Farmer: Gender and the Dynamics of Agricultural Change in Colonial Southeastern Nigeria,” which will be a history of the gendered nature of colonial agricultural planning and their impact on agricultural transformation in southeastern Nigeria from 1900 to 1960. Chima will explore the specific circumstances under which rural farmers produced, how colonial planners ignored women, and their effects on rural life. He hopes to show that changing gender relations, local perspectives, ecological and demographic variables, and local responses, offer a better understanding of agricultural policies and agricultural transformation during this crucial period in Nigeria’s history.

 Graduate Student Awards and Fellowships:

Several graduate students also received research funding this spring.  Cory Haala s200_cory.haalareceived one of a handful of Schmitt Fellowships from MU’s graduate school. This provides a full year fellowship to complete research and begin writing his dissertation on “The Progressive Center: Midwestern Liberalism inn the Age of Reagan, 1978-1992.”

The MU Center for Transnational Justice awarded $2500 Graduate Student Research Grants to PhD candidate Lisa Lamson and MA student Luke Greenwalt.  Lisa’s grant will help fund research for her dissertation on “Black Girlhood and Education in Baltimore City, 1820-1890,” while Luke’s will help him complete research on “Patterns of Racism and Nationalism in post-WWII Germany.”

40030Lisa has also received a Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship from the Maryland Historical Society and a Graduate School Dean’s Research Enhancement Award. The former gives her expanded access to the Historical Society’s collection, give her the chance to present her research-in-progress in a brown-bag presentation, write a post for the library’s blog, and submit my finished work for possible publication for the Maryland Historical Magazine.  The latter provides a $5,000 stipend to allow her to prepare and write a major extramural research funding application.

HarshnerSam Harshner received a $4000 Colonial Dames Fellowship to help fund research on his dissertation, which is tentatively called “Pope’s Day and Masculinity: An Ideology of the American Revolution.”

Ben Nestor received full funding to attend a workshop on “Teaching Anti-Semitism in the Twenty-First Century,” at York University (Canada), which is Sponsored by the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto photo-ss-benjamin-nestorand the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. This intensive summer institute is for advanced graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and early career scholars.

Maggie Nettesheim-Hoffman’s travel grant from the Economic History Society partially funded her travel to the New Directions in American Philanthropy Conference in Sheffield, England, where she delivered the paper, Maggie-Nettesheim“A Menace to the National Welfare: The Final Report of the United States Commission on Industrial Relations & The Progressive Era Critique of American Philanthropic Foundations.”  The Tilly Award from the Social Science History Association recognizes an outstanding graduate student paper at the SSHA’s annual conference (this year in Montreal, Canada); Maggie’s award-winning paper was on“The Philanthropic Factory: Capitalism, Corporate Charity, and Forging New Socio-Economic Worker Identities in Milwaukee,”

Mellon Grants

The College of Arts and Science’s Mellon fund provides funding for projects that enhance undergraduate education. The department has received a number of these grants over the years, many of which have funded public history programming. This year,  Laura Matthew received $13,000 for “Remembering Madre Rosa: Oral Histories of a Marquette Matthew-KS2A8144Doctor in Highland Guatemala, 1962-1992.” She is leading an undergraduate student research team to investigate the history of dozens of Maryknoll Sisters who studied at Marquette in the mid-20th century, then ran a rural regional hospital in the middle of the Guatemalan civil war. The Mellon grant will pay for Laura and the students to travel to Guatemala in the summer of 2018. The  team visited the archives of the Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining, NY, over spring break, with support from the Office of International Education.

alisonAlison Efford received nearly $1000 of Mellon funding forHIST 4120 Collaboration with St. Rafael School to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee,” which enables students from St. Rafael School on Milwaukee’s South Side to travel to campus several times during the course of a semester to work on Milwaukee Latino history projects with students in her immigration history class.  William Denzer, a graduate assistant, blogged about this project last spring at Historians@Work (https://marquettehistorians.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/marquette-history-students-collaborate-with-middle-schoolers-to-research-the-latino-history-of-milwaukee/).

Annual Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Awards

            Finally, although not directly related to research, two members of the department received prestigious awards at the annual Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Awards.

Lezlie Knox was named Mentor of the Year.  Honored chiefly for her work as Director of Graduate Studies for half a decade, Lezlie was described by one student supporter in this way:Without her counsel, I may have passed up a number of significant opportunities that proved to be key components in my journey as a scholar. She has a way of listening to her students and understanding the variety of individual strengths we bring to our studies, and makes individual recommendations for success based upon our unique talents. I owe much of my success as a graduate student and as an academic to Dr. Knox. My successes, however, are only one example. She is an advocate for all of her students and has guided many of my colleagues on to similar achievements.  We are stronger students and professional academics, and better prepared for the world outside Marquette University because of Dr. Knox’s work on our behalf.”

IMG_3781Jolene Kreisler was named Outstanding Staff Member. Jolene’s nomination declared thather enthusiastic kindness towards students and her commitment to fulfilling her duties  . . . contributes to the academic mission of the University. Jolene has definitely taken ownership of her position at MU, and considers herself a representative of the university when dealing with students, parents, and other members of the MU community.  She is very, very good at her job, but her demeanor, kindness, professionalism, and good cheer truly separate her from many other administrative assistants on campus.

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Welcome to the Department: Distinguished Visitors and New Colleagues

By James Marten, Department Chair

Although we tend to think of our department as a dozen-and-a-half men and women who come to Marquette as young PhDs, earn tenure, and stay happily ever after, that isn’t, of course, entirely accurate. It’s true that we have fewer adjunct faculty than any other history department I know, and that we also have much less turnover among the tenure-track faculty than most departments—several members of the department have been at Marquette for over thirty years, while several more have been here over twenty!

But there are other ways of coming to the department, and this year, more than ever, we have a number of visiting faculty who have taken less-traditional routes to Marquette. So, in this first blog of the 2016-2017 academic year, I’d like to welcome a number of historians who join us this year.

First up is J. Patrick Mullins, who is actually a new tenure-line faculty member.  Patrick comes to us after teaching for a decade at Marymount University in Virginia.  A spmullinsecialist in the intellectual and religious history of the American Revolutionary period; his first book, Father of Liberty: Jonathan Mayhew and the Principles of the American Revolution, will be published by the University Press of Kansas in 2017.  Among other things, Patrick will lead our public history and internship programs.

We also have three distinguished visitors for at least part of this year. Sharon Leon of George Mason University is the Association of Marquette University Women’s Chair in HumaLeonnistic Studies.  In addition to teaching a course on digital history and participating in the digital scholarship symposium we are co-sponsoring with the library on September 29, Sharon will deliver the annual Boheim Lecture on September 21 at 6:00 in the Beaumier Suites BC (the lower level of the Raynor Library).  She will speak on “Re-Presenting the History of Jesuit Slaveholding in Southern Maryland.”

The department also has the pleasure to host an Arnold L. Mitchem Dissertation Fellow, Sergio Gonzalez, who is a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Mitchem Fellows provide time for emerging scholars to finish their dissertations, obtain Gonzalezprofessional mentoring, and gain experience teaching.  Sergio’s dissertation is “’I was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me’: Latino Immigration, Religion, and Community Formation in Milwaukee, 1920-1990.”  In spring 2017 he will teach an undergraduate readings course on race and citizenship.

The department will host another dissertator, Michael A. Guzik, SJ, who as a Wade Professor will spend most of his time finishing his dissertation on Catholicism in Poland Guzikat the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.  But he will also teach a western civilization course in the spring.  Wade Professors—all of whom are Jesuits—can be a junior scholar, like Michael, or they can be a distinguished senior scholar like the department’s last Wade Professor, Oliver P. Rafferty, SJ, who taught Irish history her a few years back.

 A second Jesuit colleague will begin his two-year regency this fall. Fr. Stephen J. Molvarec, a recent recipient of a PhD in medieval history from the University of Notre Dame, will be a Postdoctoral Fellow.  He will teach two sections of the Western Civilization Molvarecsurvey and two sections of HIST 2001, our course for honors students, in the spring.  He will also revise his dissertation, which explores the Carthusian Order in late medieval France.  After completing his Regency here at Marquette, Steve will go on for additional theological training, and then go on the job market.

Finally, Sam Harshner will be Assistant Director of the Center for Urban Research, HarshnerTeaching and Outreach, which is currently housed in the History Department (under acting director James Marten).  In addition, Sam—who is one of our own PhD students, studying early American history with Kristen Foster—will teach an American history survey and run the internship program in the Department of Political Science.

We’re delighted that Marquette is part of these new colleagues’ professional journeys, however long or short their stays in the department will be.

History Faculty Win Funding for Research on Fascists, Friars, and Foreign Relations.

Historians at Marquette, like their colleagues everywhere, require two kinds of resources to conduct their research: the funding to travel to archives and the time to write. Marquette University expects its scholars to seek funding from such agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, to name just two of the larger funders of humanities and social science research, as well as from smaller, more specialized organizations and from archives. But faculty can also apply for summer research funding—that’s when much of the serious research and writing takes place–through a competitive process administered by the Committee on Research (chaired this year by our own Tim McMahon!). Summer Faculty Fellowships offer a stipend (read time), while Regular Research Grants pay for travel to collections. Dozens of MU faculty apply each year; less than half are approved. (You can find out more about the COR and the funding programs its members administer at http://www.marquette.edu/orsp/COR.shtml.)

The Committee on Research made three awards to historians this year, which will take their recipients to Germany, Italy, and Cuba to research, respectively, “the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics,” the life of an “the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil,” and the “intersections of race, identity, and gender” in the relationship between the American military and Cubans living near and working on the US based at Guantánamo. Brief descriptions of these fascinating projects follow.

Peter Staudenmaier: The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy 

The controversial history of early environmentalism in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy is not well understood. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the role of “blood and soil” beliefs in the two regimes – that is, the attempt to link natural regeneration with racial renewal – there is no consensus on their historical significance or practical relevance. Detailed staudenmaier  empirical studies remain rare. My project represents the first comparative analysis of the topic based on archival research. It is structured around a series of case studies, including the history of organic farming under the Nazi regime and the Fascist campaign for ruralization in 1930s Italy. But the project as a whole goes well beyond these specifics. I aim to present a comprehensive historical analysis of the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics. This is a classic “second book” project, with a full-length monograph as the eventual outcome. It represents an important new phase in my scholarship, and I expect the book to make a provocative contribution not just to historical debates but also to ongoing public discussion of vital and timely questions about environmental sustainability and its political contexts.  Staudenmaier is assistant professor and author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).

Lezlie Knox: Mariano of Florence: An Ordinary Friar in an Extraordinary Time

This biographical study of Fra Mariano of Florence (d. 1523) explores the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil both within his own religious order and in the Roman Church more generally in the decades prior to the Reformation.  Mariano performed ordinary clerical duties throughout his life, but also found the time to research aclarend write fifteen treatises on his order’s history and noted members.  My research project uses these writings (some of which exist only in manuscript copy) to explore daily life in the friaries and convents of central Italy at the end of the Middle Ages.  It also assesses how important debates over what it meant to be a Franciscan played out at a local level, a subject that is frequently overlooked in favor of conflict at the level of the Order’s leadership. This proposal specifically seeks funding to travel to Florence, Italy in June-July 2015 in order to read Mariano’s autograph manuscripts and research archival documents related to the communities in which he lived.  Lezlie Knox is associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964

I plan to travel to Cuba next summer to investigate the local records of U.S. military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Santiago, Guantánamo City, and Caimanera.  The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964.  The main focus of my research is how these interactions contributed donoghueto the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.   The U.S presence resulted in numerous binational encounters.  Some were negative that included brawls, crimes, the growth of a sex industry, and narcotics sales.  Other had more positive impacts such as cultural and economic exchanges, service jobs, intermarriages, and joint interests in sports, religion, and spectacle.  This study will examine the impact of these encounters in transforming what was once regarded as Washington’s closest alliance in the Caribbean into one of intense hostility by 1960.   My third trip to Cuba will be concentrate on finishing up my research in the archives of Santiago and Guantánamo City and also conducting more interviews with retired Cuban workers from the base and local service industries that catered to Americans. This project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that drove so many revolutionary processes.  Michael Donoghue is associate professor and author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (Duke, 2014).

 

Nigeria: Beyond Ebola and Boko Haram

By Chima J. Korieh

Associate Professor Chima Korieh reminds us of the challenges, misconceptions, and successes related to recent events in his native country. Chima’s latest book is “Life Not Worth Living”: Nigerian Petitions Reflecting an African Society’s Experiences during World War II (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2014).

I was in Nigeria over the summer to explore the archives for my book on Africans and the Second World War. The period coincided with the outbreak of Ebola virus in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city of about 13 million people. Mr. Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American and the first Ebola case in Nigeria, had flown into Lagos from Liberia. Sawyer was already symptomatic when he arrived in Lagos on July 20. The case in Lagos brought widespread panic in the country, but the government took immediate steps to contain the spread. This included large-scale mobilization of human and material resources, the immediate isolation and monitoring of those who came in contact with Mr. Sawyer, and aggressive public enlightenment.

Nigeria is a very good example of what could be achieved with domestic expertise and capacities. It was a Nigerian female medical doctor, Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, who insisted on isolating the country’s first Ebola patient when she correctly suspected that he may have been infected by the virus. Her action saved many lives. The federal, state and local officials took the necessary steps that effectively limited the spread of the disease to other parts of the country.

map

The Africa without Ebola (Anthony England / @EbolaPhone)

The Nigerian experience has shown the capacity of an African country with resources to deal effectively with such health challenges as the outbreak of Ebola. Unlike Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are still recovering from long periods of civil war and where the basic infrastructure is woefully inadequate, Nigeria is in a better position to deal with such crisis. When The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free after forty-two days of no new reported cases, only eight of twenty reported cases had died. Nigeria was very proactive when the first case was confirmed. An effective community approach using communication technology such as text messaging helped Nigeria officials to continuously keep track of every single person who had come in contact with Sawyer from the flights he boarded to the Lagos airport and his movement in Lagos after he arrived. This process known as contact tracing was dome quickly, efficiently until the last case was resolved.

However, there are conclusions that can be drawn from the outbreak of this virus. One is a new emerging discourse on Africans, survival, and disease. The other is the premium placed on foreign expertise. As a result of the outbreak of Ebola, what Nigerian writer Teju Cole characterized as the “white saviour industrial complex” or a “pathology of white privilege” in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, has reemerged. One needed to listen to a Texan government official’s remark when the first Ebola case was diagnosed in the United States. He assured the American public that the health department was in a better position to deal the outbreak because “this is not West Africa.” He basically framed African societies as backward “infantile objects” incapable of dealing with such outbreak. Additionally, the external interventionist paradigm, which has often defined Western approach to aid also came in to play. Western medical doctors who have gone to treat Ebola patients in the worst hit areas are hailed as heroes. As the Liberian author Robtel Pailey noted, “We’ve been assailed with images of mostly white foreigners flown out of the Ebola ‘hot zone”’ with the promise of expert care abroad. As spokespersons for the thousands “left behind,” they are the ones who have made the headlines. Such perspectives have ignored what she rightly called “domestic capabilities,” or what ordinary men, women, and children are doing to help their communities.

Other issues of concern are the “anachronistic” image of Africa that still prevails, as well ignorance about where the disease exists. The worst outbreak of Ebola is in the western African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Still, the media has characterized this disease as ravaging the entire West African region—a region made up of 16 countries. It is worrisome that even the mainstream Western media characterizes this enormous region as a country—a single region. As a result every person from West Africa and indeed Africans is suspect. People have deliberately avoided anyone who has travelled to Africa even if one has never been in an area infested with the virus. Indeed, The Washington Post recently wrote that “Despite clear geographical limits to the Ebola outbreak, many Americans seem confused. How else could you explain the recent Ebola scare that kept two children who had moved from Rwanda to New Jersey from attending school, despite the fact the East African country is Ebola-free. . . . Or the resignation of a teacher in Kentucky due to a backlash to her traveling to Kenya?”

Of course, Nigeria has been in the news for other reasons, including the ongoing Islamist insurgency led by Boko Haram. Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lid Da’awati Wal-Jihad) has been fighting to create an Islamic state. Founded in the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, in 2002, Boko Haram has carried out several bloody bombings in Nigeria since 2009, including the Christmas Day attack in 2011 at a Catholic church that killed dozens of worshipers and the bombing of UN Headquarters in Abuja in August 2011 and of the police headquarter in Abuja in June of that year. Nigerians also witnessed coordinated attacks in the northern city of Kano in January 2012 that targeted the country’s security apparatus and civilians, killing 185 people. More than 1,000 people were killed last year in attacks blamed on the group across the country including a school bombing that killed at least forty-six students in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum on November 10, 2014.

posterHowever, the horrific abduction of 230 schoolgirls by Boko Haram April 16 this year has once again brought the dangers posed by the groups to Nigeria and the West African regions. It has also resulted in a world-wide condemnation of the group and the emergence of a movement known as “#bring back our girls.”

While these attacks pose a serious challenged to Nigeria’s security and economic development, there are growing concerns about the failure of the international community to recognize the serious danger that Boko Haram poses to Nigeria, West Africa’s regional stability, and the global attempt to fight terrorism. This is not obviously a Nigerian problem alone. The world, especially the West has to pay attention. The rest of the world needs to learn to cooperate just at the jihadist groups have historically done in pursuing their common interest and ideology. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is united with other fundamentalist groups in their disdain for Christianity and Western influences. These groups are united in their goal across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The rest of the world needs to approach the issue from a collaborative and cooperative strategic position.

Overall, the potential for greatness in Nigeria is enormous. Nigeria has emerged from decades of military rule and is today a thriving democracy. The country is the largest economy in Africa and the economy is worth $510 billion. The country is attracting direct foreign investment more than any other country in Africa despite all odds. The current success witnessed in Nigeria is a reminder that African countries have the potential for growth despite the current handicaps.

 

 


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