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Biography

Peter Chonka completed his PhD at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies in 2017. His doctoral research focused on transnational Somali-language media networks and their impact on the cultural politics of state reconstruction in the Horn of Africa. His recent publications have explored the production, dissemination and use of digital texts in this media environment, and online/offline contestation between the state and militant opposition groups. As such, he’s interested in how the new media environment affects political reconstruction, civil society activism, and conflict in so-called ‘fragile’ states. He has also recently been affiliated with an ESRC/DFID-funded ‘Security on the Move’ research project, using innovative visual methods to explore displaced people’s everyday perceptions of mobility, security and urbanisation in Somali cities.

He has previously taught in the fields of African Politics and Development Studies at SOAS and Birkbeck (University of London). Prior to his doctoral research he worked as a Somali-interpreter for the International Committee of the Red Cross, primarily in places of detention across Somalia.

Research Interests & PhD Supervision

  • Digital media and political communication
  • Conflict and state-building
  • African media/digital cultures
  • Migration and mobility
  • Development/humanitarian communications

For more details, please see his full research profile.

Teaching

Peter has been convening the MA Mobility, Culture and Digital Media module that explores intersections between migration, diaspora communities, and communication technologies. He also designed, and now convenes, the Development and Humanitarianism in a Digital Age BA module.

Expertise and Public Engagement

Peter has testified as an expert witness for immigration cases related to Somalia, and advises UK refugee advocacy groups on issues related to his research. He has taught on and co-directed the Rift Valley Institute’s annual Horn of Africa course, held in the region and designed for civil society, humanitarian, diplomatic, and security sector professionals. He regularly presents his research to public and governmental audiences in the Horn of Africa and the UK, and he is a fellow of Somali Public Agenda, a local non-profit institute that works to advance the understanding and improvement of governance and public services in Somalia. He also contributes specialist commentary on Horn of Africa affairs for media outlets such as Vice news and CCTV. For more details and access to his publications see his personal website.

Selected publications

‘New media, performative violence, and state reconstruction in Mogadishu’ African Affairs, 117(468): 392-414 (2018).

‘News media and political contestation in the Somali territories: defining the parameters of a transnational digital public’ Journal of Eastern African Studies 13(1): 140-157 (2019).

‘Cartoons in conflict: Amin Arts and transnational geopolitical imagination in the Somali-language public sphere’ Critical African Studies, 9(3): 350-376 (2017).

‘Spies, stonework and the suuq: Somali nationalism and the narrative politics of Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujaahidiin’s online propaganda’ Journal of Eastern African Studies, 10(2): 247-265 (2016).

‘War and city-making in Somalia: Property, power and disposable lives’ (with Jutta Bakonyi and Kirsti Stuvoy) Political Geography 73: 82-91 (2019).

 ‘#Bookfairs: old/new media and the politics of literary promotion in the Somali Horn of Africa’ advance online publication in New Media and Society (June 2019)

 ‘Igu sawir “gone too far”? Social media and state reconstruction in Somalia’ in Social Media and Politics in Africa: Democracy, Censorship and Security edited by Molony T and Dwyer M, Zed Books (2019).

‘Glocalised Jihad, political conflict, and conspiracy theorisation across a fragmented Somalia’ accepted chapter in Exporting Global Jihad: Critical Perspectives from the 'Periphery' edited by Schulze K, Smith T and Solomon H, I.B. Tauris (forthcoming 2020).

‘The Empire tweets back? #HumanitarianStarWars and memetic auto-critique in the aid industry’ accepted and forthcoming in Social Media+Society.

BOOK REVIEWS

Elusive Jannah: The Somali diaspora and a borderless Muslim identity by Cawo M. Abdi, Reviewed for Journal of Islamic Studies, published online May 2016.

The real politics of the Horn of Africa: money, war and the business of power by Alex de Waal, Reviewed for Journal of National Identities, published online June 2016.

Everyday media culture in Africa: audiences and users, edited by Wendy Willems and Winston Mano eds. Reviewed for Africa at LSE, June 2017.