Putting Out the Fire with Gasoline? Violence Control in “Fragile” States: A Study of Vigilantism in Nigeria



For many communities in the “fragile” state order of Nigeria, vigilante groups represent the only pragmatic alternative for providing a minimum of protection and order in the face of widespread insecurity. But vigilante groups are often more than just controllers of violence and competing operators in security markets. They are also integrated into social networks, representing a social response to perceived state dysfunctionality in the fields of security and justice and offering symbolic orientation where national integrative power and legitimacy are contested. Thus, vigilante groups possess both disintegrative and reintegrative dimensions. Vigilante activities are not necessarily a sign of loss of state control over violence, as the conventional “failed states” discourse would suggest. Instead, vigilantes are interwoven with the state through complex relationships of cooperation and competition. They simultaneously strengthen and weaken different dimensions of statehood.


Police Force State Failure Niger Delta Identity Politics Civil Society Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Alex Veit for his helpful comments on an earlier draft of this chapter.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, University of BielefeldBielefeldGermany

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