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Essay Title: Race, Climate, History, and a Deeper Understanding of Darfur Research Question: What historical roles have race and climate played in the construction of a crisis in Darfur? Outline begins here: Thesis Paragraph: The conflict in Darfur has historically involved a complex confluence of regional and global factors that have not only contributed to the violence, but have also prevented many in the United States and other Western countries from truly understanding the conflict. Thus, it has been labeled, inaccurately, a genocide committed by Arabs against Africans. Rather than understand Darfur in this simplistic way, a focus on the historical creation of racial identities in British-ruled Sudan and the near forty-year Sahelian drought that has displaced countless tribes challenges the misperception of this conflict as a racially motivated genocide. I. British colonial rule in Sudan (1899-1956) served as the first introduction of race- based identities to the region – identities that Westerners and indeed some Sudanese involved in the conflict continue to use to understand the civil war there. A. Early colonial writers tended to describe Sudan and much of sub-Saharan Africa as devoid of internal stimuli and instead reliant on outside forces for change. In particular, British writers characterized Africa as comprised of a native African race and non-African settlers, including Arabs. i. In the late-nineteenth century, Winston Churchill wrote of Arab-ruled Sudan: “The bravery of the aboriginals is outweighed by the intelligence of the invaders,” by which he meant Arabs. [1] Yet Churchill meant this less as a compliment toward Arabs but rather as a justification for what he considered an even more superior form of (British) colonial rule. ii. Though Harold MacMichael’s methods of genealogical data gathering proved less crude that the claims of Churchill, MacMichael nevertheless used the responses to assume that anyone who claimed an Arab identity in Darfur must be a settler and not a native. MacMichael assumed that the Arab presence in Darfur was part of a relatively recent series of migrations into the region, which ignored a much longer Arab presence in the region. iii. What both Churchill and MacMichael missed, or refused to acknowledge, was that the identity of “Arab” was a cultural identity, not a racial one. One hundred years later, the Bush administration continued this strain of thinking.
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  • Fall '17
  • Ken Faunce
  • History

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