Academic guessing about the future of Sudan

There was an academic roadtrip last week from Durham to Oxford for a symposium on Sudan.  The symposium – as with a talk by an FCO representative on the Wednesday before – had the same failing, in that in both cases the speakers attempted to not make predictions while also making predictions.

I think it’s generally felt that Sudan, both north and South, will be in real difficulties in every way in the short, medium and long-term.  I don’t know anyone who, when pressed, gets really distressed, stressed and frustrated by their views of what will happen, particularly to South Sudan.  I become extremely annoyed with people who refer to South Sudan as being a ‘failed state’ in the making.  It sounds like meaningless and flippant pessimism, and it depersonalises and generalises a really frightening and worrying time.

So, both the FCO talk and the Oxford symposium tended towards prediction and pessimism.  There was a certain amount of one-upmanship; as one speaker put it, if you predict the worst, then if you’re right you can say I told you so and if you’re wrong then that’s good.  But when a speaker’s being stridently pessimistic in his I-promise-they’re-not-predictions, it does depress me: I don’t feel that, as academics trying to make sensible comments about a really changing and exceptional situation, we have to sound like we aren’t afraid on behalf of the people whose lives and livelihoods are at stake.  I don’t think that’s academic distance or objectivity.

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1 Comment

Filed under Academia, Politics, Procrastination, Sudan

One response to “Academic guessing about the future of Sudan

  1. T

    apropos of nothing (I should really get my own blog) how’s this for a quote: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/wintour-and-watt/2011/feb/03/development-aid

    “This is not just aid from Britain; it is aid for Britain too. Our aid to Somalia is helping to make Britain safer, because conflict doesn’t just claim innocent lives in Somalia, it also leads to international problems like piracy, migration and terrorism. None of these will be solved without tackling their root causes: ongoing instability and extreme poverty.”

    Nice to see migration in it’s place, snugly nestled between terrorism and piracy.

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