Tag Archives: navel-gazing

Film nights and research perspective, in Maper, Aweil town


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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First week in Aweil: photo diary


Pithy comment on current state of privatisation of public health services in the UK?  No, it’s Nelson’s Hides and Skins LTD.

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Filed under Africa, Current affairs, Domestic bliss, Procrastination, South Sudan, Travel

Culture and diversity: all-singing, all-dancing

I’ve had a lot of culture over the last few days in Juba.  Now that I’m not officially an employee of the Rift Valley Institute in South Sudan – I’m now full-time on the PhD, finally – I’m putting in a lot of time (read, I’m still in the office at 10pm) on various consulting jobs, an article, and planning for moving my life up to Aweil next Thursday.  And I’ve had time to do culture.


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Filed under Africa, Archives, Current affairs, History, Politics, South Sudan

Eat, pray, blog: finding yourself in Africa

I’ve been reading Chris Mackowski’s blog about his first trip to Uganda, and realising that in many ways this is now a travel blog as much as a stream of consciousness journal about doing a PhD.  Chris has had an interesting reaction to his post on his feelings about travelling to Uganda, where he discusses his hopes for personal development and eye-opening experiences.

One commenter said:

Africa is your chance as a PHd student to wake up? Sad.

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“Undesirable harlots”: women in the South Sudan national archives

Quote from a file on Murle-Dinka relations, South Sudan National Archives

A file on Murle-Dinka relations, South Sudan National Archives

There’s lots of detail in the South Sudan National Archives: I’ve mentioned this before.  What I didn’t mention is how many women there are.  Obviously any archive, when read properly, contains women’s history; despite the erasure and irrelevance of women to the vastly male writers of historical documents (until, hopefully, recently), it’s hard to completely get rid of an entire pesky gender.  What I am enjoying though in the South Sudan National Archives, as they take shape, is looking at how a determined researcher – with a significant amount of time on their hands – could write a very interesting, if a bit scattergun, history of women in South Sudan from these records.

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Being a single woman in a Juba suburb, pt.2: young people, shisha, and waiting

I’m trying to work on a project for a January conference that I stupidly decided to do partly on “youth”. This is a nightmare topic – I know it, I wrote an essay for my MA about the difficulty and arbitrariness of the concept, for heaven’s sakes – and I’m kicking myself for picking it. My preliminary work (which is mostly sitting, angsting about the topic, and moaning about it to friends here) has been pretty stressful (she says, knowing she should be doing it now).

As happens when you’re trying to do a small research project on the side while really focusing on something else, the best research I’ve done so far is when I’ve got home, tired, disgustingly sweaty, covered in bits of archive paper (sorry – not intentionally stealing the archives, just bits that fall off it) and dust, and I walk down the short stretch of mud path that leads from the main road to my compound gate.

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Being a single woman in a Juba suburb, pt.1: Risk assessments

I live in a suburb of Juba now, called Munuki, on the road to Godele, running out towards north of Jebel Kujur. It’s a really nice place, gentrifying fast with endless concrete being shipped in in the morning, and with new shops being built everywhere, and stacked onto older structures. There is a hot business in welding spiral staircases.

My safety is pretty reasonable. Munuki street life shuts down at about 9pm and I’m always in my compound by then, or getting a reliable taxi home. I live in one of the many concrete-and-razorwire compounds dotted around the streets surrounding Souk Libya, the main market, in a tiny concrete hut at the back of a local MP’s house. The MP’s nephew, a middle-aged SPLA sergeant, is on permanent, low-key duty, drinking tea, cooking beans and watching the house. I have keys for everything and more. It was a great find by my friend Richard Tongu.

While I know this, though, the more paranoid and contained sides of the “international community” here don’t. Most UN staff don’t know where Munuki is; the UN guidance on moving around outside the centre of town is bizarrely terrifying, like reading about a place I’ve never been. To me, I have a wonderful life, a separate bathroom block, a kitchen room being built and tiled as I write, a market two minutes away and a local trader across the street who gets out my standard order when he sees me: one Nile Special, one large bottle of water, three passionfruit and some rice.

I have a fabulous lifestyle here (in comparison to my likely future conditions during my PhD research year). It feels like the UN-style interpretation of Juba is about five years behind in Munuki, where I have Philip, Gonda and Alex making sure I get home every evening, I have my nails done weekly (extravagance!) by Joseph or Jimmy in the market, I splash out on cheese once a week, and I buy ridiculously frilly dressing gowns from the second hand clothes seller Lillian, to wear while cooking my falafel and rice in the evenings in the courtyard. Everyone here says that there is petty theft but very little robbery: the “Niggas” gangs who plagued Munuki have mostly left, moving out to Mia Saba and Godele where there are fewer GoSS dignitaries and armed compounds. The land disputes are mostly settled in the local court, which is relatively quiet now. There are serious problems – including massive local unemployment among my contemporaries – and I am still taking good care of myself; but I am currently bemused by the security rating of my very fancy life.


Filed under Domestic bliss, Procrastination

Archive Times: The Church Missionary Society and Save the Children Fund UK, Birmingham Special Collections

I’ve been on hiatus from this blog because everything kicked off at work; a conference to organise, and teaching work with archive visits slotted in between.

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Filed under Academia, Archives, Feminism

“New Sudan”: baton passing?

[once independence is achieved,] those content with the liberation of the South could remain behind while those committed to the liberation of the whole country could continue the struggle.

According to Francis Deng (War of Visions, p.505), this was John Garang’s argument about divisions within the SPLA between those fighting specifically for an independent South and soldiers who believed in Garang’s vision of a broader national political struggle.

According to Deng, this ‘clever scheme’ was ‘never… understood’: at the time, in the library, I found this quite funny, a bizarre image of an army where the majority decided to stay ‘at home’ while some of their mates went north.

Obviously, back home from the library, I realised that the SPLM North’s current political rhetoric and the phrasing of their agreements – however unlikely they are to work in practice – with the current Darfur groups echo Garang’s sentiments nicely.  It’s a strange quote, and a strange perspective on current events.

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Filed under Archives, Politics, South Sudan, Sudan

The ESRC 1+3: being a 1+ student

Part three: being ESRC at Durham and the Durham University postgraduate experience

I’ve had an interesting, varied summer, and spent my “+” weeks – after finishing the Masters dissertation and waiting for the PhD to begin – at a conference in Khartoum.  More on that in another post though – first I’ll finish my 3-part post on being an ESRC student.  This will be a short one, but I just want to sum up some personal points that I didn’t make in the more practical earlier posts.

This last year hasn’t really felt like a Masters course in the way my other friends described theirs.  As well as the workload being less intensive and completely interdisciplinary (see my previous posts – one and two), I was also free of the impending job hunt and funding worries of my contemporaries – I knew my PhD was secure.

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