Category Archives: Uncategorized
This is a partial response to Richard Dowden’s essay in African Arguments, 22.1.2014, which I will address further below.
I am bored to tears with the “birth” metaphor for South Sudan. I can’t be the only one. South Sudan became independent in 2011, prompting a wave of newspaper articles and comment about ‘the birth’. It was ‘the birth of’ ‘a new republic,’ ‘a new nation‘, and ‘a new country‘ – pick your preferred political unit.
Two years of independence celebrations later, and yes, it was becoming extremely wearing. As well as the standard “Christian black South and Arab Islamic North” summary of Sudan-South Sudan politics of old, it seemed that it was now necessary to preface everything about South Sudan with a birth or baby analogy. South Sudan had had a ‘difficult birth,’ and reviews of ‘birthday celebrations’ – like I catalogued, maybe slightly sarcastically, here and here – were opportunities for people to choose their side, pro- or con-independence.
Money makes theWorld dance.Dance for youA big dance aGreat waltzMoney breaks mountaindown and irrigated deserts.Money makes u able toSee well & show u the wayBut my friend toldMe that the personWho loves youBecause you haveMoney, that personWill bite you whenYou have no money.Money make greatFools wise.Money is love.When you have a lotsOf money there reToo many womanWho love you.When you’re poorThere’s hardlyAnyone to love u.Money can buyA human being!Oh money, moneyHundreds of notesThousands of dollars &Pound make u enjoy anEarthly paradise butRemember money kill!
Juba has a dream. Admittedly, it’s a dream that, at the moment, makes the town look like one large concrete mixer. Continue reading
It’s my last week in Aweil, doing research – mostly through chatting – on the history of South Sudanese community politics in Khartoum. I’ve only really been posting photos for the last five months here, mostly because I’m too busy and electricity-free, but also because I’m aware that, as a researcher in Mile 14, I’m lucky to have the research freedoms I do.
Most people I meet here in Juba are frantically reading about South Sudan; pretty much anything they can get their hands on. The sheer complexity of living and attempting to work here – let alone run organisations in South Sudan – means that, firstly, people realize that they don’t know enough; then they realize they don’t know enough history; then they realize they don’t have enough time.
Which is why pre-reading is important. Not just the usual suspects – as I mentioned, I think, Douglas H. Johnson is out here working with me on the National Archives project and while we are a terrifying team (I hope), I am constantly reminded that he wrote the seminal book on South Sudan’s civil wars – but the extended, historical pre-reading and thought, the realization that you can’t just read about the CPA period, and the increasingly prevalent and frustrating idea that you can work in South Sudan without trying to understand Sudan.
So this is why I’m going to do a shameless plug. Most of the heads of missions and embassies here in Juba are alumni of the Rift Valley Institute’s Field Courses; I assisted my PhD supervisor, Professor Justin Willis of Durham University, in running the 2012 course last summer. And despite having just spent a year’s worth of time in an excellent library, in six archives, and doing very little work that wasn’t reading, writing and thinking about Sudan and South Sudan, it was extremely intensive and absolutely vital to my understanding of the two countries.
I can’t recommend the Sudan and South Sudan course enough; the other courses I hear from previous participants are just as intensive and worthwhile. (They are also fabulous networking opportunities.) So, despite my RVI affiliation, I’m plugging. Find the briefs and outlines below.
(I have to admit I am writing this partly for the title, and the post will be riddled with cow idioms. I’m not apologising. I’m also inviting Zoe Cormack, who’s far more of an expert than me on cattle in South Sudan, to comment?)
The news that there are more cows per person in South Sudan than anywhere else in the world has created a bit of a fuss today, not just because a lot of people are looking desperately for where the other 88% of lost government revenue could come from post-oil shutdown. These figures – despite being based on the heavily disputed 2010 census, which many think massively underestimated the South Sudan population – have re-ignited a very long-standing financial interest in cows.
Anyone who has looked closely at non-European skin products knows that skin bleaching is a serious industry. The international issues of race, racism and beauty standards must be addressed in any discussion of skin lightening and aspirations to white skin (and I would encourage you to read some excellent comment pieces on this and look at the academic work here). It is hard to buy a soap, face cream or anti-acne product here in Juba that does not contain skin lightening agents.