The Darfur War: Masculinity in Crisis and the Contingency of Sudanese Citizenship

Seminar date: 
15 January 2009
Speaker(s): Dr Karin Willemse (Assistant Professor, Department of History, Erasmus University, Rotterdam)

Karin Willemse was awarded her PhD at Leiden University and is now Assistant Professor of History of Africa and of Gender and Islam in the History Department at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. She was chair of the Netherlands Association for Gender and Feminist Anthropology (1997-2003) and fellow-in-residence at NIAS (2005/6 & 2007/8). She is a member of the Academic Advisory Committee of the 'Coordination of the Research Programme' (Versterking kennis van en dialoog met de Islamitisch/Arabische wereld) that was commissioned by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She is co-applicant of the NWO project 'Moving Frontiers: Islam and Globalization in Africa' at the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, with scholars from South Africa, Senegal and the Netherlands. She is studying the role of the Sufi religion on the way urban youths are constructing a 'modern' identity in Khartoum, Sudan. Her work on the war in Darfur focuses on the relationship between mediations of violence, gender, youth and religion with reference to the construction of citizenship in Sudan. Her most recent book is 'One Foot in Heaven'. Narratives on Gender and Islam in Darfur, West Sudan (Brill 2007).

Since early 2003 Darfur has seen mounting violence, which has led the UN to describe the current conflict as 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis'. It has been portrayed in the media and the international political arena as one of Sudanese Arab nomads against Black African farmers. Using this dichotomy uncritically not only leads to an oversimplification of the causes of the conflict but also reifies the discourse the present Islamist government of Sudan is using to legitimize its civil wars. The analysis presented in this seminar is based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Darfur during the 1980s and 1990s and in Khartoum since 2001. While the current conflict has different socio-economic, political, religious and ethnical aspects, it is argued that the government's religious-racial discourse of Islamic superiority, in which notions of gender intersect with other identities, is part of a strategy of in- and exclusion in the construction of notions of citizenship in the (post)colonial era.

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