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Sociology professor’s career focuses on international peacebuilding

April 12, 2017

Abu Bakkar Bah

When Abu Bakarr Bah’s academic interests turned toward issues of democracy and peacebuilding almost two decades ago, he didn’t foresee how quickly these studies, which are closely related now to issues of terrorism and refugees, would be at the forefront of international interest.

Flash forward about 20 years, and Bah is an associate professor of sociology at NIU and an author of “Breakdown and Reconstitution: Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria,” editor-in-chief of African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review and most recently, editor of a book titled, “International Security and Peacebuilding: Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.”

His newest book, published earlier this year by Indiana University Press, focuses on how today’s wars, including the war on terrorism, have threatened international, regional, and individual security and sparked the ongoing refugee crisis. The book — comprised of essays on international humanitarian interventions by an international group of contributors —  focuses on how efforts to build liberal democracies are carried out in failing states in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

Bah has taught at NIU since 2003 and holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research, New York, NY. He also has a Diploma of Higher Education (M.A. equivalent) in sociology from Sophia University, in Bulgaria.

Bah said that as he pursued doctoral work, he became increasingly interested in issues of democracy and continues to write about it.

“Many African countries are multi-ethnic. I studied Nigeria. Most of it was looking at the challenges that ethnic diversity poses to having a multi-party system. People don’t understand that if everything becomes tribal, then democracy doesn’t work well.”

Bah initially focused his research on Nigeria because the country has a long history of issues regarding multi-ethnic groups and the pursuit of democratic government.

He said that around 2005, he became interested in civil wars as they related to democracy and the international interventions happening in Africa. He noted that the civil wars have been on-going since in the 1990s.

“Many [civil wars] required international intervention, and so a newer focus of my interest has been on the involvement of international communities in building peace and building democracy in countries that are war-torn,” he said.

Bah said that the question of how international intervention deals with building democratic states where there is a lot of multiethnic diversity is a focus of his most recent book, “International Security and Peacebuilding: Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.”

His studies also help to understand issues that breed terrorism. “When society doesn’t have a system of governance that deals with ethnic, regional and religious diversity, it fuels feelings of so much injustice,” he said. “The recipe for conflict always lies there.”

Bah said these days, he occasionally teaches courses on immigration and how it is directly related to international security.

“Most of these issues are of interest to students right now,” he said. “I try to help students understand that sociological theories, ideas and concepts have applications that affect their lives in ways they are unaware of. People see more and more of how all these international issues directly relate to the things they do here in changes in government policy.”