Mobility as the driving force of armed conflict

Table of contents

Introduction: The Neglected Linkages between Mobility and Insurgency
1: Dangerous Work(ers): Youth, Motorcycles and Stuckedness
2: Local Immobility and Mobilization into Boko Haram
3: A Turning Point: The Bike-Helmet Law and the July 2009 Violence
4: The Wheels of Insurgency: Mobile Warfare, Security Force Abuses, and Civilian Resistance
5: Governance through Mobility: Subversive Mobilities, State Counterinsurgency and the Politics of Dispossession
6: Conclusion: Toward a Mobile Logic of Insurgency


In Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency, Daniel Agbiboa takes African insurgencies back to their routes by providing a transdisciplinary perspective on the centrality of mobility to the strategies of insurgents, state security forces, and civilian populations caught in conflict. Drawing on one of the world’s deadliest insurgencies, the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, this well-crafted and richly nuanced intervention offers fresh insights into how violent extremist organizations exploit forms of local immobility and border porosity to mobilize new recruits, how the state’s “war on terror” mobilizes against so-called subversive mobilities, and how civilian populations in transit are treated as could-be terrorists and subjected to extortion and state-sanctioned violence en route. The multiple and intersecting flows analyzed here upend Eurocentric representations of movement in Africa as one-sided, anarchic, and dangerous. Instead, this book underscores the contradictions of mobility in conflict zones as simultaneously a resource and a burden. Intellectually rigorous yet clear, engaging, and accessible, Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency is a seminal contribution that lays bare the neglected linkages between conflict and mobility.

Daniel E. Agbiboa is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.

“This is a well-researched and provocative narrative. Dr. Agbiboa convincingly demonstrates how specific modalities of mobility and mobilization are closely entwined in the context of violent insurgency in Northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. This book is a remarkably urgent, impressive and constructive contribution."

—Professor Kenneth Omeje, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

- Kenneth Omeje

“This is the fruit of superior scholarship. Agbiboa has demonstrated an encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject matter and has deployed inter-disciplinary insights and approach to illuminate the discussion of an extra-ordinarily complex subject. Scholars on the subject will have Agbiboa to thank for a seminar book that is bound to dominate literature for quite some time to come.”

—Professor Abiodun Alao, Professor of African Studies, King’s College London

- Abiodun Alao

Winner: International Studies Association (ISA) 2022 PEACE Best Global South Scholar Book Award

- ISA PEACE Best Global South Scholar Book Award

"By examining the concepts of corruption and insurgency through the tropes of mobility and transportation, the author charts a path less travelled by scholars working in these subject areas. . . make[s] a useful contribute to the discussions on corruption and security in Africa."
Theory, Culture & Society

- Gabriel O. Apata

"Agbiboa's book convincingly bridges the gap between mobility and conflict studies and reveals how both the insurgents and the state instrumentalize mobility patterns to shape conflict. The study is a valuable addition to the burgeoning literature on the geography of conflicts in West Africa and a well-researched contribution to the spatiality of Boko Haram and its splinter group the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP)."
Space & Polity

- Olivier Walther, University of Florida

"The power of Agbiboa’s book lies in making a point and then offering us a glimpse into the truth of the opposite argument. ...a treasure trove for anyone interested in questions of mobility and conflict."
Perspectives on Politics

- Peer Schouten

"[Agbiboa] provides an interesting and novel examination of Boko Haram, in a way that other forms of analysis would miss. . . I would recommend this book to those who wish to look at insurgencies and conflict in a novel way."
Journal of Strategic Security

- Michael Hampson

"[Agbiboa] has written an exceptionally lucid book on the roots and routes of terrorism and counterterrorism that makes a seminal contribution to the fields of mobilities research, peace and conflict studies, political science, international relations, geography, and sociology."
Global Policy

- Promise Frank Ejiofor

"[T]he sheer depth of his critical analysis and fieldwork make Daniel Agbiboa's study an invaluable addition to the current discourse on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Nigeria. It is must-reading for anyone interested in a shift in critical perspectives on Boko Haram's insurgency and the Nigerian government's response to it."
Michigan War Studies Review

- Akali Omeni, University of St. Andrews

"The books considered in this review constitute invaluable material for those who are interested in the conversation among researchers from the global south. . . These dialogues are important and urgent to spread and enrich the production of knowledge."

- Hernán Camilo Pulido-Martinez

"A perfect demonstration of how the “war on terror” is currently playing out in Africa’s Lake Chad Basin region. It sheds light on the implications of this phenomenon on the livelihoods of mobile subjects in this specific context, a new insight that should not be taken for granted."
E-International Relations

- Bintu Zahara Sakor

Winner of the 2023 ISA Lee Ann Fujii Book Award

- ISA Lee Ann Fujii Book Award

"For social scientists who are used to static and fixed entities, Agbiboa’s analysis provides surprising insight into individual experiences with (im)mobilization as well as the daily struggle of life in a conflict zone. His interviews of “mobile subjects on the move” and his immersive and theoretically grounded field research help the reader understand the currency of certain coping mechanisms in response to escalating conflict, immobilization, vigilante action, and the difficult economic conditions in northeast Nigeria. In this regard, Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency fills an important lacuna in conflict and counter/insurgency literature."
International Journal of Communication

- Buket Oztas, Furman University

"This book constitutes a significant addition to the scholarly literature on (im)mobility and counterinsurgency, as it provides a thought-provoking and insightful perspective on these two themes. It comes highly recommended to scholars seeking to enhance their knowledge and comprehension of the interconnection between (im)mobility and violent conflicts in Africa." 
Contemporary Voices: The St Andrews Journal of International Relations

- Ezenwa Olumba

"Agbiboa offers a counterpoint to often – proverbially and perhaps intuitively – static analysis of stateness by raising the question whether to some degree mobility makes states."

- Christoph N. Vogel

"Mobility, Mobilization, and Counter/Insurgency: The Routes of Terror in an African Context is an excellent piece of scholarship and a necessary contribution for those who want to understand not only the trajectory of Boko Haram, but more generally how conflicts emerge and operate in contemporary Africa under the global umbrella of the ‘War on Terror’. Agbiboa’s encyclopedic knowledge of the subject represents a clear strength of the book, along with the decision to employ an original and useful theoretical framework based on the centrality of ‘mobility’...the analytical angle defined by the author remains not only necessary, but also potentially groundbreaking for the way we will look at African insurgencies in the near future."
The International Spectator

- Edoardo Baldaro

“Mobilities scholars and social scientists more broadly will appreciate Agbiboa’s attentiveness to the relationship between mobility and immobility that at the same time allows scholars of the mobilities turn to embrace the study of both movement and fixity to understand global flows and circulations of humans, nonhuman animals, objects, capital, and information.”
AAG Review of Books

- Bradley Rink

Mobility, Mobilization and Counter/Insurgency is a theoretically and empirically grounded masterpiece that will be of great relevance to the academic community. It should be a pocket companion to students of security studies, political science and international relations, as well as those interested in insurgency and counterinsurgency.“
African Studies Quarterly

- Adeniyi S. Basiru

"[A] gripping account of how the simple motorcycle can illuminate the history, practice, and organizing logic of insurgency and counterinsurgency."

- Catherine E. Bolton

"Although much has been written about Boko Haram, no previous study has systematically and comprehensively drawn the connection between mobility and insurgency as Daniel Agbiboa has done in this well-researched, empirically grounded, theoretically anchored and highly innovative study."

- Hussein Solomon

Read: Review in Global Policy | October 21, 2022 | Link to Read
Read: Review in Theory, Culture & Society | July 19, 2022 | Link to Read