In a global context of widespread fears over Islamic radicalization and militancy, poor Muslim youth, especially those socialized 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, Quranic Schools in Northern Nigeria: Everyday Experiences of Youth, Faith, and Poverty (Cambridge University Press, 2018) offers an alternative perspective on youth, faith, and poverty. Mobilizing insights from scholarship on education, poverty research and childhood and youth studies, Hannah Hoechner, lecturer at the School of International Development, University of East Anglia, describes how religious discourses can moderate feelings of inadequacy triggered by experiences of exclusion, and how Qur'anic school enrollment offers a way forward in constrained circumstances, even though it likely reproduces poverty in the long run. In our conversation we discuss the rural economy of Northern Nigeria, educational options for young boys, the activities of the Qur’anic school, how boys support themselves through domestic service, youth masculinity, poverty and economic instability, politics of respectability, the “prayer economy” and spiritual services, and participatory research and video production.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at email@example.com.