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Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria
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In a global context of widespread fears over Islamic radicalisation and militancy, poor Muslim youth, especially those socialised in religious seminaries, have attracted overwhelmingly negative attention. In northern Nigeria, male Qur'anic students have garnered a reputation of resorting to violence in order to claim their share of highly unequally distributed resources. Drawing on material from long-term ethnographic and participatory fieldwork among Qur'anic students and their communities, this book offers an alternative perspective on youth, faith, and poverty. Mobilising insights from scholarship on education, poverty research and childhood and youth studies, Hannah Hoechner describes how religious discourses can moderate feelings of inadequacy triggered by experiences of exclusion, and how Qur'anic school enrolment offers a way forward in constrained circumstances, even though it likely reproduces poverty in the long run. A pioneering study of religious school students conducted through participatory methods, this book presents vital insights into the concerns of this much-vilified group.


‘As the only full-length ethnography of classical Qur'anic education in Africa - and indeed, as far as I know, anywhere else - this is a tremendously important book … and, I cannot stress enough, unique contribution to the literature.'

Robert Launay - Northwestern University, Illinois

‘Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria is well structured and written in an eloquent and comprehensible style, full of clarifying footnotes and definitions that render it accessible for both an academic and non-academic readership … the significance of this work not only stems from its originality and rigour but also from the fact that in-depth studies on Islamic education … are exceptionally scarce, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa … Hoechner efficaciously presents a quasi-insider perception of their trials and tribulations, building up an empathetic and corroborated counter-hegemonic discourse.’

Dina Hassan El Odessy Source: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

‘This first ethnography of life in northern Nigeria’s Qur’anic schools fills an important void in the literature and richly conveys the meaning and roles of Qur’anic schools. Hannah Hoechner brings impressive innovation, depth, and sensitivity to her study of almajiri life. Beyond being essential reading for any researcher in this field, the book will appeal to readers interested in childhood and youth, education, and visual anthropology.’

Joseph Hill Source: American Ethnologist

‘Hannah Hoechner has written a rich, challenging and ethnographically grounded account of the lives of almajirai in northern Nigeria …’

Alex Thurston Source: The Journal of Modern African Studies

‘Readers of Hannah Hoechner’s Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria: Everyday Experiences of Youth, Faith, and Poverty, will quickly become acquainted with the often-misunderstood students of Northern Nigeria’s classical Quranic education - the almajirai … What Hoechner’s ethnography highlights for us is how the everyday realities of almajirai shed light on their internal contradictions of the ideal ends of pain: their desire to find dignity where they can find it, even while part of a sometimes punishing path in pursuit of an increasingly undervalued form of knowledge.’

Nermeen Mouftah Source: Islamic Africa

‘For all the anxiety they provoke in domestic and global political debate, students who pursue Qur’anic education in northern Nigeria are themselves rarely heard. Hoechner’s densely layered book lays out their motivations and concerns in clear prose. Students and scholars alike from a wide range of disciplines will benefit from a close engagement with this important work.’

Samuel D. Anderson Source: International Journal of African Historical

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