Porridge, piety, and patience: young Qur’anic students’ experiences of poverty in Kano, Nigeria

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Inequalities are growing on a global scale and rising consumerism has exacerbated the negative connotations of material deprivation in many places. What does this imply for how poor people experience their situation? What role does religion play in their lives? This paper explores these questions by studying how young Qur'anic students (almajirai) in Kano in northern Nigeria experience, and deal with, being poor. In the context of growing violent conflict related to the Boko Haram insurgency, poor Muslims, including the almajirai, have frequently been cast as being prone to violence in order to claim their share of highly unequally distributed resources. Religion has often been portrayed as a radicalizing force in their lives. This paper challenges such views. It describes how the almajirai deploy religious discourses to moderate feelings of inadequacy and shame triggered by experiences of exclusion. At the same time, recourse to religious discourses emphasizing the values of asceticism and endurance does not further an agenda of social change and thus risks perpetuating the almajirai's weak social position. The paper concludes that consumerism and wealth-based definitions of status are likely to silence demands for social justice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269–288
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2015

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