Arab,African- Scopus - WHO ARE THE DARFURIANS? ARAB AND...

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Unformatted text preview: WHO ARE THE DARFURIANS? ARAB AND AFRICAN IDENTITIES,VIOLENCE AND EXTERNAL ENGAGEMENT A LEX DE W AAL ABSTRACT This article examines processes of identity formation in Darfur, now part of the Republic of Sudan, over the last four centuries. The basic story is of four overlapping processes of identity formation, each of them primarily associated with a different period in the region’s history: namely, the ‘Sudanic identities’ associated with the Dar Fur sultanate, Islamic identi- ties, the administrative tribalism associated with the twentieth-century Sudanese state, and the recent polarization of ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ identi- ties, associated with new forms of external intrusion and internal violence. It is a story that emphasizes the much-neglected east-west axis of Sudanese identity, arguably as important as the north-south axis, and redeems the neglect of Darfur as a separate and important locus for state formation in northern Sudan, paralleling and competing with the Nile Valley states. It focuses on the incapacity of both the modern Sudanese state and inter- national actors to comprehend the singularities of Darfur, accusing much Sudanese historiography of ‘Nilocentrism’, namely, the use of analytical terms derived from the experience of the Nile Valley to apply to Darfur. D ARFUR REFERS , STRICTLY SPEAKING , TO ‘ LAND OF THE F UR ’. As I shall argue, ‘Fur’was historically an ethno-political term, but nonetheless, at any historical point, has referred only to a minority of the region’s population, which includes many ethnicities and tribes. 1 However, from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century, there was a continuous history of state formation in the region, and R. S. O’Fahey remarks that there is a striking acceptance of Darfur as a single entity over this period. 2 Certainly, living in Darfur in the 1980s, and travelling to most parts of the region, the sense of regional identity was palpable. This does not mean there is agreement over the identity or destiny of Darfur. There are, as I shall argue, different Alex de Waal is Fellow, Global Equity Initiative, Harvard University, Programme Director, Social Science Research Council and Director, Justice Africa. 1. The use of the label ‘tribe’ is controversial. But when we are dealing with the subgroups of the Darfurian Arabs, who are ethnically indistinguishable but politically distinct, the term correlates with popular usage and is useful. Hence, ‘tribe’ is used in the sense of a political or administrative ethnically-based unit. See Abdel Ghaffar M. Ahmed, Anthropology in the Sudan: Reflections by a Sudanese Anthropologist (International Books, Utrecht, 2002)....
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This note was uploaded on 10/20/2011 for the course LER 110 taught by Professor Ashby during the Spring '11 term at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.

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Arab,African- Scopus - WHO ARE THE DARFURIANS? ARAB AND...

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