Mirjam de Bruijn receives NWO grant to research digital warfare in the Sahel
Professor Mirjam de Bruijn will research digital warfare in the North African Sahel with an NWO Open Competition grant. The focus of the research will be on Fulani social networks in war and cultural violence.
'Our aim with this research is to understand conflicts in the Sahel as network conflicts, in both online and offline. We assume that the information circulating in these networks may also legitimise the extreme violence that is part of the conflicts in the Sahel,' says De Bruijn. 'The researchers will combine ethnography, or internet and social media ethnography (netnography), with computational methods that can analyse large data sets.'
New insights into conflict
The scientists also want to explore the increase in conflicts in the Sahel as a consequence of the entangled world (the convergence of off- and online realities, ed.). Because all kinds of groups take positions in conflicts, there is no longer a clear locus of conflict. 'By combining network theory with existing conflict theory and the role of social media and online activities, we are taking a new step in the research into the dynamics of conflict. In addition, in this particular case study, we will look for current processes of exclusion, ethnic violence, and other extremes that seem to exist in these conflicts and that need to be made known,' says De Bruijn.
The legitimisation of violence on social media
De Bruijn: 'I hope that with this research, the idea of cultural violence, the legitimisation of violence, as it occurs on social media, becomes a serious topic for other researchers to work on further. It is perhaps one of the harshest effects that social media has on the world.
Finally, De Bruijn is looking forward to working with partners. 'It is wonderful that I will again have the opportunity to develop my own idea, in collaboration with two PhD students, whom I will supervise together with colleague Jelena Prokic from Digital Humanities. We will also be working with African colleagues who will have time to write articles with us.'