Voices from Darfur (thesis abstract)

by Anders Hastrup

Voices from Darfur. Reclaiming Sudanese History

This is a summary of my PhD thesis, “Voices from Darfur. Reclaiming Sudanese History” that I have just handed in. It has taken up most of my time and explains my long absence from this blog. However, I shall be back more frequently now with updates and different pieces. Looking forward to contribute more extensively again.

This thesis focuses on how refugees from Darfur living in camps in Eastern Chad voice their experiences and produce narratives of the conflict in the Sudanese province. The work is based primarily on fieldwork and interviews conducted in 12 UNHCR-administered camps in early 2009. By listening to the voices from Darfur, the overall analytical ambition of the thesis is to explore the refugees’ modes of explanation and production of history as emerging in the circumscribed present of the camps. However restricting, the refugee camps are considered sites of production, where perceptions of the Darfur conflict, its root causes, its key players, and its possible future resolution are discussed by the very people who are at once at the centre of the crisis and utterly disempowered. The aim of the thesis is to show that the refugees’ accounts of the Darfur conflict and their attempts to reclaim their history provide an essential element in understanding wider historical developments in Sudan and the relation between the peripheries and the state.

The work fuses anthropological and historical approaches and suggests that a particular method of deep listening can be employed to explore the refugees’ modes of explanation and production of history. Among other themes, the thesis examines how Arabs are remembered by the refugees, and how the current war in Darfur must be understood as a culmination of earlier patterns of conflict in the province. A central point is that the Arab janjaweed militias were not just armed as a counterinsurgency measure against rebellious uprising in Darfur, but that the rebellion against the Khartoum government emerged as a response to patterns of militia atrocities that were already widespread. Furthermore, the thesis explores what the refugees consider to be necessary prerequisites for a return to Darfur. A central point here is that the refugees seem to have ambivalent expectations with regard to what measures can ensure a return to the areas they fled. Bodies of the international community are curiously thought of a means of nation building and of recreating a local Darfurian system of land distribution.

By analyzing the processes by which refugees try to reclaim Sudanese history, the thesis is a contribution to the study of war in the state of Sudan, arguing that the very multiplicity of voices is crucial for understanding the predicaments of the country; a clearer picture of Sudanese national history must be grounded in polyphony itself, whereby the very notion of a national history is drawn into question.

10 responses to “Voices from Darfur (thesis abstract)

  1. Käre Anders Hastrup.
    Jeg har netop hört interviewet med dig i DR Orientering.
    Jeg var Danmarks sidste minister for Grönland. I dag er jeg rektor for Europaskolen i Karlsruhe, hvor jeg ogsaa er kommunalbestyrelsesmedlem.
    Jeg er ven med Mende Nazer og formand for Mende Nazer Foundation med formaalet at bygge skole i Nuba fra 2012.
    Indtil Januar i aar var jeg ogsaa formand for IHB-foreningen i Danmark.
    Jeg ville gerne etablere en kontakt med dig. Jeg er i Danmark hele august.
    Med god hilsen
    Tom Hoyem

  2. hi
    I am PhD student in uk as well and I am working on Darfur crisis, but I find some difficulty to get information about the crisis as you know its ambiguous crisis, so how can I contact you, because I am really need help.
    thank you in advance

  3. Amazing article. Thanks for info.

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  5. Véronique Garcia

    Hi, I am a bachelor’s student from Laval University in Quebec, Canada. I have to study the case of Darfur’s refugees and I have some difficulties to find sources from anthropologists. I wanted to get your thesis on Internet (with the Id of my university), but I can’t find it anywhere…Do you think it’s possible for me to find it somewhere (and not just the abstract)? Or can you contact me? This would really help me for I find anthropologists studies about Darfur hard to find.
    Thank you in advance,
    Véronique Garcia

  6. Bonjour,

    Je prépare une thèse de doctorat dont le sujet est :
    Conflit du Darfour et polymorphisme : analyse thématique des interactions d’un conflit complexe et ambigu.

    Je suis preneur de tous contacts et informations.

    A bientôt.


  7. We would like to buy a copy of your thesis to the Bergen Resource Centre for International Development, in Norway, which holds a special collection on literature on Sudan . Please send a copy with your invoice to pob 5892, Jekteviksbakken 31, 5892 Bergen, Norway. Please confirm – and thanking you.
    best regards
    kirsti andersen

  8. We have forwarded your request to Anders Hastrup, who now works as Director of the Danish Institute in Damaskus: http://www.damaskus.dk

  9. Det er som om Dafur er forsvundet ud fra medie billedet. Er der nogen update på hvordan det går dernede?

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