Category Archives: Academia

Durham University visiting scholars applications open

The Sudanese Studies Programme at Durham University, led by the Departments of Law and History, calls for applications, particularly from Sudan and South Sudan nationals, for three one-term visiting scholarships based at Grey College, Durham, for September-December 2014. For the application information, please see here:

Durham – Visiting Scholars – Sudans – 2014-15

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Not an expert

My radio silence could be partly explained by a forthright intercession by a member of the South Sudan Embassy at a SOAS discussion yesterday.

“Self appointed experts on South Sudan [are a big problem at the moment]… [we need discussion to be] made more academic. … [Their comments are how] we are judged”

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Geography, and re-learning Juba

I’ve just moved back to Juba, after a few weeks’ break in the UK, and I’m realising I know very little about this town other than that I can get a $4 sticky toffee pudding for breakfast.

That’s maybe an exaggeration. But in the process of starting up interviews again with returned Khartoum residents around Juba, I’m finding whole new neighbourhoods (and local names) I’ve never heard of before. So now I’m working on building a map of Juba that’s becoming similar to my now-ragged map of Khartoum – complete with arrows, notes and scribbled lines.

my huge Khartoum map being pored over in Apada, Aweil

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Film nights and research perspective, in Maper, Aweil town

jurassicpark

I am not an anthropologist.  I’m not “trained”, I have no critical understanding of the theories or methodologies, and I have a functional legal background in interviewing, not a research one.  I am also rubbish at “living in the community” – I’m a skinny-jeans-wearing, foreign-food-eating, boozing-and-dancing inappropriate nightmare.

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Last few weeks in Northern Bahr el Ghazal – Mayen Ulem village photos

notes

 

It’s been pretty wet here. Continue reading

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Small joys of research in Aweil

  • Carrying water from the borehole, putting it in the bucket in the sun to warm up, and then showering at sunset outside in the grass open-air cubicle.
  • Managing to work out how to use the choke on my motorbike to make it start in the rain.
  • Waking up to tea and bread being brought to me by the toddler in the compound.  Make ’em work.
  • The moments where someone starts discussing something in an interview that I’ve been desperate for more details on, and my interpreter and I share a look of “jackpot”.
  • Roasting coffee beans in a skillet in a green, green village, on Sunday afternoons.
  • Being given a chunky-assed baby to hold for a bit.
  • Heavy rain on my tin roof.
  • People being genuinely happy and surprised when I say, I’ve heard that you were an activist for community language classes in Khartoum, ten years ago.  And then them looking mildly terrified about how I’ve tracked them down.
  • People giving me their “spy names” from secret work they did in Khartoum.
  • Finding Nutella in a local shop.  Bought three jars immediately.
  • Film nights in my compound, and the joy of small boys seeing orcs and hobbits.  (Ayak said she had nightmares about dinosaurs after we watched Jurassic Park, though.)

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Research: photo diary

Earl Grey tea, in Mile 14.

earlgrey

And on the road to Wanjok from Aweil town, these lovely local schools.

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‘Fieldwork’ time: moving on from Juba

football

A hat made of a plastic football, in Juba.

I’m re-starting my PhD properly on Thursday, after six months of working on my Arabic, which is still only shweya, and on the South Sudan National Archives, which is also shweya, although a little less of a mushkila than when I arrived.  I’m leaving Juba for Aweil – after my previous trip, I think it’s a good enough place to start work – on Thursday, with no real fixed plan after that.

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Moving the past in Juba

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This is probably not the advised method of moving archives around a town; but we have too much paper and we’re trying to resort 2000 files from Equatoria Province in a small house with no air con.  Give us a break.

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“No constitution is permanent”: writing a new constitution for South Sudan

DSCF9052The Juba Lectures 2013 have started, and I am exhausted: I organised the speakers and panels in the last three weeks as the local Rift Valley Institute hand here, and have spent most of my time running around Juba on the back of a motorbike trying to meet a variety of VIPs and activists of various stripes to speak on the constitutional process in South Sudan.

Professor Akolda Tier, the chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission and a quiet, academic and conservative man, was our keynote speaker last night, on a panel set up to focus on practicalities: is there the political will to actually create a new constitution, and would it involve a consultative process?  Why has the commission still not started, despite it overrunning its mandated period?  Is the two year extension a political move designed to put off elections in 2015?  Etc.

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