Working Paper


New technologies now make it possible to render visible – literally – what has long been hidden in dominant institutional approaches to mass atrocity crimes:  the social, political, and historical contexts in which these crimes occur. By focusing on specific incidents, international law and human rights advocacy de-contextualises and reframes mass violence according to legal logics. The proposed research aims to disrupt these framings by exploring various legal cases related to police violence in the United States, making visible what falls outside the rubric of international institutions, such as the United Nations Human Rights Treaties.   It seeks to do so by developing a novel 3-Dimension computer-generated platform for showing what is otherwise not seen. Through an innovative transdisciplinary approach that brings insights from anthropology, history and law together with architectural practices of modelling and visualisation, the project collaborators explore ways of depicting layers of violence beyond what legal forms ‘see’ in order to advance a new optic of representation for memorialisation, pedagogy and advocacy.

Early Warning Early Response

Early Warning Early Response

In Nigeria today, frequent conflicts, disappearances and mass violence, especially in the Northern region of the country, have led to large-scale destruction of human life and the displacement of large populations as unarmed civilians are caught in the crossfire. Government efforts at various levels, ranging from the creation of legal and policy frameworks to programs on-the-ground, have been inadequate to protect civilians. This project envisions an end to the cycle of violent conflict in states in Northern Nigeria through the empowerment of community members, including women, to serve as peacebuilders trained in early detection and early response to conflict, and through fostering their full participation as citizens in a more equitable economy and more tolerant religious and cultural landscape. Central to the project is the mobilization and training of and collaboration with local Nigerian constituencies to engage in and strengthen early warning and early response systems from the ground up.  The project’s design. uses community-based evidence mobilization to address such widespread violence and unrest will strengthen and build on civil-security partnerships to leverage the largely untapped capacity of local communities, and in particular of women, to address violent attacks by fostering mutual understanding and collaborative change. 

Existing responses to conflict and mass violence in Nigeria have been beset by challenges. Interventions by the Nigerian Federal Government have, at times, accelerated conflict, as with the passage of an anti-grazing law that has fueled controversy over implementation at state and local levels of government. Local civil society initiatives have continued to emerge to address problems between these levels of governmental intervention and attempts to mitigate ever-growing inequality and insecurity concerns in the region. Participation by key stakeholders from affected communities has remained low, however, leading to limited effectiveness of interventions. In particular, traditional male-dominated social norms have continued to exclude women from peace-building efforts despite the disproportionate burdens they bear as a consequence of ongoing violence. Moreover, the crises in Northern Nigeria continue to split communities along religious and geographic lines, a phenomenon that only foreshadows intensification of conflict over time. Key states, including Kaduna and Plateau, are divided into northern and southern regions, exacerbating breaks in communal and familial lines and fueling a climate of hate speech and religious misrepresentation that continues to frame narratives to justify and normalize violence. In the North West, North East and North Central states, violent conflicts primarily involve predominantly Christian farmers and informal policing groups (vigilantes) acting on their behalf to defend against predominantly Muslim nomadic Fulani herders. 

The effects of climate change on the Lake Chad basin are key triggers of conflict as herders migrate to other parts of the region to find fodder and water for their cattle. The migration patterns of nomadic communities have begun to signal security concerns beyond the immediately impacted regions. In late 2017, state governments within the western and southern parts of the country began to set up community policing strategies to address growing security challenges around their states, including those relating to the (perceived) threats associated with the movement of cattle herders. Complicating this situation, the presence of large groups of cattle has incentivized “conflict entrepreneurship” as armed groups of young men across north central, north west and southern parts of the country engage in cattle rustling.  The project builds upon and integrates the strengths of state and civil society responses to date, while also contributing vital resources and expertise. Local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) and academic partners are working to contribute deep knowledge of the region, analysis of the factors underlying ongoing conflicts, and the existing on-the-ground networks that can be mobilized and trained to undertake successful violence prevention and mitigation activities. Given the inadequacy of existing early warning structures and the slow response by state security actors, mobilizing individual and collective civilian engagement is the best strategy for turning the tide on violent conflict in Northern Nigeria.  Through the establishment of a widespread community of practice that involves the use of technology, such as geospatial imagery to detect potential attacks, the project seeks to analyze and alert on the ground early response teams in the relevant communities in order to mitigate attacks on civilians and enhance their protection in target communities.

Religion, Diaspora and the Limits of the Law

Religion, Diaspora and the Limits of the Law

Over the past two decades, I have been engaged in analyzing a range of contemporary challenges in transnational black occult religions that are sometimes at odds with emergent rights endowed agendas of state and international institutions. The manuscript from which is evolving from that research is entitled Of Dreamers and the Limits of the Law: Dilemmas in the Exercise of Religious Freedom. This work responds to what I see as one of most explosive issues in transnational theories of religious formations today. It deals with the challenges of religious pluralism in national state contexts and inspires questions concerning the ways that practices conducted outside of diasporic “homelands” become embodiments of other traditions. It asks how those “traditions” are being revived in legal proceedings in order to protect the rights of individual claimants, while at the same time reinforcing a particular narrative about harm and violence in various countries, such as Nigeria, the Sudan, and the Liberia.

Like my past work, my future research attempts to continue to build on the inter-relationship between this literature by examining various cases through which we might understand how, in democratic nation states such as the US and Canada, state power is being exercised not only through the protection of religious freedoms through various constitutional rulings, but also through their adherence to international treaty requirements. In this regard, the book in progress examines various cases (constitutional freedoms, asylum, criminal/religious, religious freedoms among inmates) where courts have ruled in particular ways and those affected or concerned have mobilized differently.

The object of analysis focuses on the way that various forms of African-based religious practices in the US, Canada, Africa and the Caribbean—orisha-voodoo, Santeria, and Jamaican obeah–are being practiced in diasporic contexts and taken up in North American courts in response to contestations over “religious freedom” in civil cases and those addressing criminal, civil asylum and refugee cases. This project is committed to bringing to anthropology the study of international institutions and the ways that new forms of governance are taking shape, thus reconfiguring the way we understand transnational phenomena today.

Yet, scholars of religion have tended to be concerned with understanding meanings of practices and social change in a range of complex formations. And scholars of law have looked at the ‘authenticity’ of rulings and their implications for establishing a just society. Yet very few scholars of religion and law who work in professed secular democratic contexts are exploring the ways that these two domains are mutually constitutive and at the cutting edge of some of the most pressing issues of our times.

Oyotunji Village Historic Archive Project

This compilation of these images represents an archive of photos taken by cultural anthropologist, Kamari Maxine Clarke as well as contributions of Oyotunji practitioners from a range of archives taken over a forty year period.

From the formation of the Oyotunji orisa-voodoo movement to its contemporary manifestations, the imagery of the periods represented here ranges from 1960-1970; 1971-1980; 1981-1990; 1991-2000; to 2001-2008. All of these periods represent the formation of its making, marking a period in which it emerged out of United States Jim Crow Segregation, Black Power Protests, Civil Rights Possibilities, and Various Cultural Heritage movements that resonate today with its transnational linkages with West African Orisa practices, Cuban and US Santeria/Lukumi, Brazilian Condomble, and the Trinidadian orisha traditions.

New Digital Technologies and the Challenges of Evidence

New Digital Technologies and the Challenges of Evidence

As a result of a related and initial collaborative exploration with Anna Agathangelou, this research explores a new dimension of digital technologies and their roles in creating a ‘human rights technology revolution’ (Kelly Matheson, WITNESS). Yet how are these technologies—such as satellite tracking, crowd  sourcing, and social media—transforming socio-legal worlds? Are witnesses using social media to transmit evidence to legal officers, even evidence of mass atrocities? Are perpetrators of mass violence using social media to coordinate their efforts? Relatedly, how are these new technologies being incorporated in the juridical realm, such as in international courts and tribunals to transform lives in the 21st century? How will international courts navigate the introduction of new tracking technologies as the basis for new evidentiary forms that are emblematic of the new millennium? These questions highlight the contours of change in juridico-legal systems in the contemporary digital era.   By illuminating transformational entanglements amongst states, experts and non-state actors, such as members of civil society, and legal practitioners, this research will contribute to rethinking various approaches to the Anthropology of law and justice, the globalization of human rights, and the Anthropology of technology and the body.

Talking African Justice: Interrogating International Law

Talking African Justice: Interrogating International Law

“Talking African Justice is an on-line forum under the direction of Professor Kamari Clarke that provides an opportunity to feature key issues concerning international and regional justice in Africa and beyond. By translating legal and political principles for public engagement Talking African Justice provides a platform for critical conversations about international justice and its relevance to the African life worlds. The forums range from Public Briefs to Conversational feedback domains to Lectures, Podcasts and Analyses of Country Campaign data and provide resources for understanding the complexities of bringing into force an African Court of Justice and Human and People’s Rights with three jurisdictions – criminal, human rights, and general jurisdiction.
Talking African Justice has been generously funded by the Open Society Foundation with the collaboration of the African Union Legal Counseland the African Court Research Initiative(ACRI).”

“The African Court Research Initiative approaches the study of justice in Africa in relation to its larger ecologies of justice. The study of the African Court is a study of the court in relation to its judicial, political, social and the particularities of justice within African geographies of justice.”

– ACRI Research Team

Radical Humanism Initiative

Radical Humanism Initiative​

This initiative is engaged in the development of a Radical Praxis in Contemporary Anthropology and is designed to explore and implement what a radically humanist anthropology could look like.  This initiative merged in response to Ryan Jobson’s 2019 year-in-review essay for American Anthropologist, “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn”.  Through various collaborations has been committed to the parsing of the field’s enduring legacies of objectification, dehumanization and erasure, and to consider how we can continue to rebuild the field of anthropology by reflecting on core principles of an engaged and decolonizing anthropology, both as it has been formulated in the past and as it develops to address the specific needs of the present.  

In conjunction with the Wenner-Gren Foundation and a range of additional partners such as Association of Black Anthropologists, the Transformative Memory Project, the Center for Experimental Ethnography, and the Anthropology Southern Africa, the intiative has been working on elaborating a radically humanist anthropology that is grounded in a praxis of equality and a notion of being and becoming that moves us beyond the conceptualization of a liberal subject that is knowable and reducible to cultural units and ethnographic data.  The intention has been to imagine new horizons for the discipline and insist that anthropology be done in the service of real-time material, affective, and ideological transformations through an interrogation of the Problem of Method; the Problem of Knowledge Production; and the Problem of Representation.

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Visualizing Justice

Visualizing Justice

Visualizing Justice is a project that seeks to make visible and accessible the social, political, and historical contexts in which racial injustice occurs. Through an innovative transdisciplinary approach that brings insights from law, anthropology, history and art, together with practices of film-making and visualisation, the project explores ways of depicting layers of injustice that are often invisible to legal processes. Our objective is to create new possibilities for memorialization, pedagogy, advocacy, and litigation.

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Africa and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice

Africa and the ICC: Perceptions of Justice comprises contributions from prominent scholars of different disciplines including international law, political science, cultural anthropology, African history and media studies. This unique collection provides the reader with detailed insights into the interaction between the African Union and the International Criminal Court (ICC), but also looks further at the impact of the ICC at a societal level in African states and examines other justice mechanisms on a local and regional level in these countries. This investigation of the ICC’s complicated relationship with Africa allows the reader to see that perceptions of justice are multilayered.

>> Available at Cambridge Press

The Routledge Handbook of Law and Society

This innovative handbook provides a comprehensive, and truly global, overview of the main approaches and themes within law and society scholarship or social-legal studies.

A one-volume introduction to academic resources and ideas that are relevant for today’s debates on issues from reproductive justice to climate justice, food security, water conflicts, artificial intelligence, and global financial transactions, this handbook is divided into two sections. The first, ‘Perspectives and Approaches’, accessibly explains a variety of frameworks through which the relationship between law and society is addressed and understood, with emphasis on contemporary perspectives that are relatively new to many socio-legal scholars. Following the book’s overall interest in social justice, the entries in this section of the book show how conceptual tools originate in, and help to illuminate, real-world issues. The second and largest section of the book (42 short well-written pieces) presents reflections on topics or areas concerning law, justice, and society that are inherently interdisciplinary and that are relevance to current – but also classical – struggles around justice. Informing readers about the lineage of ideas that are used or could be used today for research and activism, the book attends to the full range of local, national and transnational issues in law and society. The authors were carefully chosen to achieve a diverse and non-Eurocentric view of socio-legal studies.

This volume will be invaluable for law students, those in inter-disciplinary programs such as law and society, justice studies and legal studies, and those with interests in law, but based in other social sciences. It will also appeal to general readers interested in questions of justice and rights, including activists and advocates around the world.

>> Available on Taylor & Francis eBooks

The African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Context: Development and Challenges

The treaty creating the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights, if and when it comes into force, contains innovative elements that have potentially significant implications for current substantive and procedural approaches to regional and international dispute settlements. Bringing together leading authorities in international criminal law, human rights and transitional justice, this volume provides the first comprehensive analysis of the ‘Malabo Protocol’ while situating it within the wider fields of international law and international relations. The book, edited by Professors Jalloh, Clarke and Nmehielle, offers scholarly, empirical, critically engaged and practical analyses of some of its most challenging provisions. Breaking new ground on the African Court, but also treating old concepts in a novel and relevant way, The African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights in Context is for anyone interested in international law, including international criminal law and international human rights law.

>> Open Access Publication Available at Cambridge Press

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