Monthly Archives: July 2012

Semi-officials in Juba: the growth of a state

This is a small aspect of my paper about the national identity process in Juba, South Sudan, presented on Monday at the 9th Sudan and South Sudan studies international conference in Bonn.

In the passport and identity card issuing offices in Juba town, the queues and waiting applicants crowd the courtyard.  The gates are manned by suited men with a half-working metal detector and some ambiguous ledgers; the security staff are preoccupied with crowd control at the entrances and exits of the photograph and identification offices, holding back the otherwise orderly queues.

Official staff are therefore relatively thin on the ground in this compound, in comparison to the mass of aspiring citizens.  However, this office is at the centre of a sprawling secondary bureaucracy that spreads out around the compound, and has created a form of vicarious officialdom – informal and unsalaried, but part sanctioned (or at least tolerated) and part-integrated into the state process at its centre.

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Filed under Academia, Politics, South Sudan, Sudan

International Sudan and South Sudan Studies Conference 2012

The Sudan Studies associations of the US and UK – who both accept international members – held their international conference this week in Bonn, Germany, which for the first time dealt with two countries instead of one.

Many conferences and events so far have struggled with this change and the resulting re-balancing of the debate.  Douglas Johnson called in his keynote for a clear integration of wider Africanist and other literature in Sudan studies, which has a sometimes deserved reputation for separatism and isolation.  It’s possible that – despite the likelihood that South Sudan will become the field of Africanists and Sudan will be integrated more into Middle East and Northern African literature, and therefore become more intellectually separated – this wider integration will help to encourage a sense of the Sudans in a broader intellectual debate than previously.

The conference incorporated every aspect of a traditional Sudanist meeting: there were many excellent papers and a few off the wall ones; some new and exciting students; historians being asked for comments  on contemporary problems; stray politicians and diplomats making the usual statements; and comments (with personalised histories and statements) instead of questions.

The conference also reflected the stresses of the last eight months: as was noted, many panels were concerned with development, conflict, “identity”, international relations and “nationbuilding”.  History was thin on the ground in comparison to problematizing the present and debating the future.  Events are moving fast in both Sudans, and there was a sense of impatience, concern, hope and a demand for plans, even among the old guard.

Footnote: I also met a few lovely people who apparently read this blog: very exciting!  I will try to be more diligent in my posting…

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The Sudan Studies associations of the US and UK – who both accept international members – held their international conference this week in Bonn, Germany, which for the first time dealt with two countries instead of one.

Many conferences and events so far have struggled with this change and the resulting re-balancing of the debate.  Douglas Johnson called in his keynote for a clear integration of wider Africanist and other literature in Sudan studies, which has a sometimes deserved reputation for separatism and isolation.  It’s possible that – despite the likelihood that South Sudan will become the field of Africanists and Sudan will be integrated more into Middle East and Northern African literature, and therefore become more intellectually separated – this wider integration will help to encourage a sense of the Sudans in a broader intellectual debate than previously.

The conference incorporated every aspect of a traditional Sudanist meeting: there were many excellent papers and a few off the wall ones; some new and exciting students; historians being asked for comments  on contemporary problems; stray politicians and diplomats making the usual statements; and comments (with personalised histories and statements) instead of questions.

The conference also reflected the stresses of the last eight months: as was noted, many panels were concerned with development, conflict, “identity”, international relations and “nationbuilding”.  History was thin on the ground in comparison to problematizing the present and debating the future.  Events are moving fast in both Sudans, and there was a sense of impatience, concern, hope and a demand for plans, even among the old guard.

Footnote: I also met a few lovely people who apparently read this blog: very exciting!  I will try to be more diligent in my posting…

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Filed under Academia, South Sudan, Sudan

New post on Focus on the Horn: Independence Day in Juba 2012

I have a new guest post on the Oxford University Horn of Africa blog – go here.

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Filed under Blogging, Independence, Politics, South Sudan