2017 Book Award

Every year, the Nigerian Studies Association gives an award to the best academic book or monograph published in the previous calendar year.

The Nigerian Studies Association is pleased to announce the co-winners for the 2017 Book Prize. This year, the award goes to Olufemi Vaughan for his 2016 book, Religion and the Making of Nigeria,  and to Kathryn A. Rhine for her 2016 book, The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria. 

Rhine Vaughan

Award Report

Both books are well-written and exceptionally well-researched. Each combined materials from a wide variety of sources, and are easily followed; with effective, smooth, and logical transitions. The timeliness of the two subject matters (religion, gender, HIV), the complexity of the research, and the compelling presentation of their findings, make both to be valuable contributions to the understanding of the Nigerian history, state, and society at this time. ​

Please join us in congratulating them.

Olufemi Vaughan, Religion and the Making of Nigeria. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2016

This is an important book which sets the state of Nigeria in a framework which stretches to both before and past the colonial era, connecting long processes of change. Vaughan examines Nigerian political history with a focus on three religious traditions – indigenous, Christian and Islamic – and their importance to the relations between the North, Middle Belt, and South West regions.  He treats these religions as multifaceted historical forces, both mutable and powerful, which, through their interaction and because of the particular historical circumstances framing Nigeria’s past, have been central to Nigeria’s history. This exhaustively researched, wide-ranging, and interdisciplinary study delineates distinct periods in the story, defined by shifting imperatives, but connects them into a stimulating and compelling account which reveals the deeply embedded power of religious appeals and identities in Nigeria’s past. Vaughan masterfully integrates a wide range of historical and archival sources to frame for us a picture of a nation in constant ferment. His conclusions are not optimistic. Nigeria, the author argues, will continue to fonder and its stability undermined, from the crippling impact of ethno-sectarian conflicts until the custodians of the Nigerian state can figure out a way to devise and establish a workable and sustainable structural, constitutional, and political framework. Lucid and engaging, it is the first book of its type to successfully undertake such a panoramic sweep of the centrality of religion to the socio-political transformation of Africa’s most populous nation. Anyone interested in Nigeria’s future will be well served by the insightful perspectives Vaughan provides on Nigeria’s troubled state.

Olufemi Vaughan is Alfred Sargent Lee ’41 and Mary Farley Ames Lee Professor of Black Studies at Amherst College.

Rhine, Kathryn A. The Unseen Things: Women, Secrecy, and HIV in Northern Nigeria. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016

The Unseen Things, a product of years of meticulous ethnographic research, reveals the hopes of HIV-positive women in northern Nigeria and the daily challenges that confront them as they embrace imaginative ways of creating better lives for themselves and their families. This book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the cultural, gender, and class issues surrounding the spread of HIV in a patriarchal, conservative society where issues of sexuality place women at a disadvantaged position. The voices of HIV-positive women interviewed in this book highlight the universal human longing for love, respectability, and recognition, regardless of one’s fate. The stories told by these women are moving and engrossing. Rejecting society’s labelling of them as victims, and thus consigned to a state of pitiful oblivion, these women refused to be silenced. The book explores how these women, with well-concealed contrivances or secrecy and with subtle but well-focused defiance, successfully made claims to intimacy, desire, pleasure, and dignity that society and their medical conditions contrived together to deny them. It is in humanizing these women as well as their pain, guilt, burdens, and desire for respect and recognition, in very richly textured, accessible, and exceptionally informative and insightful narrative, that Rhine makes a signal contribution to our understanding of women, secrecy, and religion in Northern Nigeria in the age of HIV.

Katherine A Rhine is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas.

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