For Dr. Kendhammer, the political Islam that shapes Nigeria is the most interesting feature on the African landscape. After graduating from Coe College, where he received a Bachelor of the Arts in both French and Political Science, he decided to look more deeply into West Africa and the political issues of the region.
His interest in political Islam led Kendhammer to focus his studies and research on Nigeria. With more than 85 million Muslims, Nigeria is home to the sixth-largest population of Muslims in the world and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. He has studied how the people in Nigeria dealt with and responded to the transition to democracy and how the trajectory of religious revival was incorporated into the democracy.
Nigeria’s declaration of Sharia law, or Islamic law, in 1999 piqued Kendhammer’s interest in political Islam. He says that although people were afraid, the violence and bloodshed that had been used to frighten the people did not work as well as the government had hoped as it used Sharia to revive traditions of Islamic justice.
Kendhammer has lived and conducted research in Cameroon and Nigeria and was a Fulbright Fellow in Nigeria in 2007-08, based at Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto. He continues to travel to Nigeria to learn more about the politics and religion that shape the country through interviews with teachers, judges, journalists, government officials, and other citizens.
Kendhammer is an expert on Boko Haram, the Jihadist group based in northeastern Nigeria. He regularly speaks on the subject of Boko Haram to government and media outlets and has authored a USAID-funded report on countering Boko Haram’s extremism in northern Nigeria. He has been interviewed on-air by the BBC World Service and BBC 4 Radio and has been published in the Washington Post. He also provides briefings and analysis on political and religious affairs in Nigeria for numerous government agencies. His book on the politics of sharia, the Islamic law, and democratization in northern Nigeria entitled Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Law, and Democracy in Nigeria was published in 2016. His work has appeared in Comparative Politics, Ethnopolitics, Journal of Human Rights, Commonwealth & Comparative Politics and Ethnic and Racial Studies.