Archives de catégorie : « Being Arab, Muslim, and Sudanese » – Projet AUF PCSI

RESHAPING IDENTITY POLITICS, Capitalising on Shari‘a Debate in Sudan -Musa Adam Abdul-Jalil

The relationship between religious identity, ethnic identity, and politics has always been a problematic one,
especially in plural societies like Sudan. This article is an attempt to understand the reasons behind the
insistence of the popular parties of the Muslim majority in Northern Sudan on establishing shar’ia law as
the law of the land. By using secondary data on party programmes, public opinion, and an analysis of
political events, I reconstruct the evolution of the debate in order to identify its prime movers. My
conclusion is that this debate emerged as a result of the quest for a national identity by the majority group,
who are predominantly Muslim and identify as Arab. Contrary to the common belief that principles of
identity politics generally only apply to minority groups, I argue that the constant pressure from popular
parties in Sudan to apply shari’a law shows that where the identity of the majority group is unclear or
problematic, there is a tendency to use strong cultural symbols as an aid to political mobilisation by elites
who claim to meet the presumed demands of the public. Raising the banner of shari’a is an effective way
not only to exclude non-Muslims from playing central roles in national politics, but also to undermine the
roles of other politically moderate Muslims.                                           AUF_Being Arab Muslim Sudanese_Working Paper 4_Musa Abdul Jalil_December 2020

PEINDRE LA DIVERSITE, REVENDIQUER L’UNITE Questions d’identités dans le Street Art de la Révolution Soudanaise-YACINE KHIAR

If the spirit of the Sudanese Revolution of 2018-19 can be summed up as a general quest for a free and
democratic society, it also carries an ideal of equality and the fight against discrimination. The celebration
of the diversity existing in the country becomes a tool for cohesion and national unity. Street art, and more
particularly murals, are a support strongly mobilized to this end. First of all, because through these objects
the Sudanese « youth », a major actor of the Revolution, expressed itself. Then, because their materiality,
their proliferation during the protests, and their presence in the street politicized space, made it possible to
make them nodes of affirmation and circulation of the values symbolized in these urban paintings. The text
focuses on a selected corpus of this pictorial artistic production that carries an identity discourse. These
works stage the complex parameters of local identity (ethnic, religious, national affiliations) in order to put
forward an inclusive idea of Sudanese diversities as a political project for a future society. Without delving
into questions of style, artists’ trajectories, or broader links to the revolutionary movement, I draw on firsthand data (from a fieldwork in February-May 2020) as well as second-hand sources (online images) to
decipher the most obvious expressions of street painting production around issues of ethnicity, diversity
and nationalism, and the use of these identities to construct a new ‘sudanity’.

AUF_Being Arab Muslim Sudanese_Working Paper 3_Yacine Khiar_November 2020

Latest Workshop « Being Arab, Muslim, Sudanese », 20 February 2020

A Workshop of the AUF Programme Being Arab, Muslim, Sudanese was held in Khartoum on the 20th February 2020, first Workshop since the opening of the new location of CEDEJ Khartoum, in the West Side of Faruk Cemetery, Khartoum 2. Twelve members of the French-Sudanese team participated to this event, among which two new members, the PhD candidates Shereen Nour (University of Khartoum) and Yacine Khiar (University Paris 8). The extension of the project for a third year (2020), mainly due to the suspension of some activities and missions due to the events of the Sudanese revolution in 2018-2019, was announced.

The researchers had a rich exchange about their fieldworks and topics of research, and an important part of the meeting was consecrated to the discussions about the forthcoming activities, particularly for the elaboration and diffusion of the research results. Concerning publication, several contributions are proposed by the team. First, after the launch of the “Workshop Series”, started in October 2019 with a work by Bakhit M. Nour (see Working-Paper-Bakheit-M-Nur_Changing_the_state_of_being_October-2019 ) a second work by Barbara Casciarri and Stefano Manfredi is going to be issued in March 2020 (see Working Paper 2_Barbara Casciarri & Stefano Manfredi_A Glossary of the Third Sudanese Revolution_March 2020 ) and will be followed by two other works before the end of the project. Second, a major publication will be a special issue of the scientific review Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines, to be delivered in December 2020 (no. 240). Third, the proposal is discussed of gathering other contributions for a collective volume to be published after the end of the programme.

The meeting also shared discussions about the organization of a final international conference aiming to present to a wider public the results of the project, that will be held in December 2020, at a date to be precised further. All the participants agreed on the fact that the interdisciplinary composition of the team, together with the plurality of ‘case studies’, not only gave the opportunity to rethink crucial issues of multiples identities in Sudan in their interaction, but also found in the unforeseen context of the Third Revolution an opportunity to enrich this reflection through the perspectives suggested by the reshaping of identities during the revolutionary process.

Freedom Peace and Justice. A Glossary of the Third Sudanese Revolution (Barbara Casciarri & Stefano Manfredi)

Working Paper 2_Barbara Casciarri & Stefano Manfredi_A Glossary of the Third Sudanese Revolution_March 2020 Working Paper 2_Barbara Casciarri & Stefano Manfredi_A Glossary of the Third Sudanese Revolution_March 2020

Freedom Peace and Justice. A Glossary of the Third Sudanese Revolution (Barbara Casciarri & Stefano Manfredi).

« The 2018-2019 Sudanese revolution can be analyzed from the perspective of the words people repeated, chanted, shouted, wrote and painted during their persistent, and ultimately successful, struggle for liberation from an oppressive system. Embedding old and new values, and circulating beyond the frontiers of age and gender, and social or regional origins, these words have crafted a common symbolic space within their revolutionary experiences, themselves becoming an actor in the construction of a collective subject and the reshaping of its identity. Based on primary and secondary sources, this glossary provides a sociolinguistic analysis of 46 entries that were chosen due either to their wide-scale occurrence or to their thematic prominence within popular discourse about the revolution, and have been classified into three categories: keywords, slogans and actors ».

Available here:


Being Arab, Muslim, Sudanese : launching of « Working Papers » series

The AUF-PCSI program « Arabité, islamité, ‘soudanité’ » / Being Arab, Muslim, Sudanese, launches a “Working Papers” series. The final scientific results of the research team will be published in a special Issue at the end of the project in 2020, this proposal aims to disseminate short contributions from the researchers, in order to enhance the interest of specific original ethnographic data linked to the main issues of the project. During the last year of the program (2020), the Working Papers will be published online with a quarterly frequency.

Working Paper n. 1, October 2019, Changing the state of being. Muslim notions of life, death and the hereafter in Western Sudan, by Bakheit Mohammed Nur.

« Colonial and postcolonial politics of religion and ethnicity: Making capitalist economy of local elites in Kassala, Eastern-Sudan » – by Abdaljbr Alhaj Mustafa – 2 October 2019

Abstract: For two centuries, Kassala has been the stronghold of the Khatmiyya order, the religious wing of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which has historically dominated, with the other sectarian party (UMMA), all democratic periods in postcolonial Sudan. Kassala also represents the historical stronghold for most of the Bejawi Nazrats (Native administrations). Religion and ethnicity in Kassala are apparently the most important institutions upon which the colonial indirect rule, that came to be known in postcolonial Sudan « the local governance », has been depended. 

Starting from the argument that the better we understand the colonial-Kassala, the better we understand postcolonial-Kassala, the study aims to understand the socio-economic and political situations in Kassala (Eastern-Sudan) in relation to colonial state-policies of religion and ethnicity. In doing so, the study starts by ethnographically studying politics of religion and ethnicity in colonial Kassala, its impacts on a process of the colonial state formation, and its outcomes in postcolonial Kassala. It goes on to investigate the relationships between the colonially formed Kassala and post-colonially formed Kassala in terms of institutions, structures, and politics (co-existence and conflict). The study ends with analytically explaining how such colonial politics of religion and ethnicity have made capitalist economy, led by variously local leaders, concentrated on side, and social exclusion, marginalization and exploitation on another side.

The study employs an approach that has not been previously adopted by Anthropological studies on Islam in postcolonial-Sudan (Al-Dawwi, 1969; Osman, 1978; Eltom, 1983;Al-Shahi, 1981;Holy, 1991; Ali, 2004 et al.), mixing Postcolonial and Marxist perspectives. The goal of such mixing is to deeply dig in socioeconomic and political history of colonization in Kassala. This focus on the micro-level gives the study an aspect of originality; particularly there has been no anthropological study in postcolonial Sudan that clearly tackled overlapping and connections between colonization, religion, ethnicity and economy in the micro-scale. The socio-economic and political history of colonialism has been very often, if not always, derived from historical documents and reports that were left by colonizers. Uniquely, this study focuses on an ethnographic field, written and oral history of colonialism in Kassala, to understand dialectical relationships between colonialism, religion, ethnicity, and capitalist economy in Kassala.

Accordingly, the study provides new perspectives on colonization and decolonization in postcolonial Kassala. Colonization did not stop at the old station in 1956, and neither did decolonization. Colonization and decolonization are ethnographically re-conceptualized. Thus, this gives the study another aspect of originality through its contribution to general debate on what colonization means, and where (how) decolonization should go and stop. 


Program Title: “BEING ARAB, MUSLIM, AND SUDANESE » . Reshaping belongings, local practices and state policies in Sudan after the separation of the South Sudan” (2018-2019)


CEDEJ Khartoum (UMIFRE, UMR 3123), Faculty of Economics and Social Studies – University of Khartoum (Sudan), Université Saint-Denis Paris 8 – LAVUE (France), Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Germany)

Scientific coordinator: Barbara CASCIARRI, University Paris 8, Associate CEDEJ Khartoum


The project focuses on dynamics of arabization and islamization in relation with national identity building in Sudan, through the analysis of the three notions’ articulation within practical processes and social actors’ practices. The central socio-anthropological approach is based on a micro-scale perspective although paying attention to macro-scale phenomena, mainly state policies related to citizens’ affiliation to an identity forged on categories of Arabness, Islamity and national integration. Rooted in classical works on issues of ethnicity, religion and nationality, the project aims at renewing the scientific contribution of the debate on the relation between Arab identity and Islam and on the issues at stake in the relationship State/citizens in an African country where colonial legacy and ethno-cultural pluralism had made particularly complex the objectives of nation-building.

The project benefits of a coherent research team linked to an ancient and fruitful institutional partnership between CEDEJ, University of Khartoum and two European academic institutions, Paris 8 University and Max Planck Institute. Through interdisciplinarity it takes jointly into account social phenomena implied by the three targeted categories. An original approach brings together various case studies, analyzed through intensive ethnographic methodology, which deeply inquiry multiple paths in making and unmaking the focused groups’ identifications as a source of conflict or as a support to solidarity, searching in these processes breaking points or persistent elements, as well as underlying manipulations. Far for conceiving such categories as merely cultural or symbolic ones, the research looks for their interaction with 1/ urbanization processes and urban/rural interfaces in their moving dynamics ; 2/ territorial configuration and access to natural resources as a driver of belongings reformulation; 3/ the dialectics between ethno-tribal arrangements and state-driven frameworks of identity categorization; 4/ a globalized conjuncture where international actors take part in the redefinition of “Arab Muslim World” and its relation with “Western World”.

Finally, the project is carried out in a particular sociopolitical context : after the long civil war linked to the impasse of post-colonial nation-building, the CPA period (2005-2011) opened again the reflection on local meanings and policies of nationality and citizenship, then, after the separation of South Sudan, Khartoum government put again on the agenda the utopia of a seamless overlapping of ‘Sudanness’, Arabness and Islam. The complexity and historical depth of this context where Sudanese people practices take place and national political orientation are drawn, show the interest of a social sciences’ study on the articulation of the three categories which still define, materially and symbolically, the meaning of “being” and “being considered as” Arab, Muslim and Sudanese in contemporary Sudan.


Ouverture d’un nouveau projet interdisciplinaire du CEDEJ: Arabité, islamité, ‘soudanité’. Enjeux de la redéfinition des appartenances, des pratiques locales et des politiques étatiques au Soudan après la séparation du Sud Soudan (AUF-PCSI 2018-2019).

Après la clôture du projet AUF-PCSI 2014-2017 METRO 2 [link], un nouveau projet AUF-PCSI vient d’être approuvé et sera menée sur les deux ans suivants par une équipe interdisciplinaire (Anthropologie, Sciences Politiques, Géographie, Linguistique, Droit, Histoire) et un partenariat scientifique rassemblant quatre institutions académiques: CEDEJ-Khartoum, Université Paris 8, University of Khartoum, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. La présentation en français et anglais du projet est disponible dans les documents ci-joints [deux fichiers PDF]. Le projet démarrera en Janvier 2018, des missions de recherche seront effectuées en Février 2018 et un premier Workshop de l’équipe se tiendra au CEDEJ en Mars 2018


Scientific coordinator: Dr. Barbara CASCIARRI, Maître de Conférence at University Paris 8, Associate CEDEJ Khartoum

Project leader: Dr. Jean-Nicolas BACH, coord. CEDEJ Khartoum

More details/Projet Detaillé:

Project AUF_PCSI 201819 Arabness Islamity Sudanness ENGL

Projet AUF_PCSI 2018_19 Arabité Islamité Soudanité


C’est dans le cadre du 3èmecongrès organisé par le GIS Moyen Orient et Mondes Musulman à Paris 1-Sorbonne entre le 3 et le 5 juillet 2019 ( qu’une partie de l’équipe du projet AUF-PCSI Arabité, islamité, ‘soudanité’/Being Arab, Muslim, Sudanese(CEDEJ-Khartoum, Université Paris 8, University of Khartoum, Max Planck Institute) a proposé cet atelier sur le Soudan.

Sur l’espace des deux heures consacrées à l’atelier (9h-11h), après une brève introduction par ses coordinatrices (B. Casciarri, A. Franck, E. Vezzadini), quatre interventions se sont succédées (v. fichier PDF avec programme détaillé). Les sept intervenants (A. Abdelaziz, C. Deshayes, G. Elsouri, P. Goût, K. Medani, B. Nur, S. Manfredi) ont proposé des réflexions issues de leurs terrains récents au Soudan, en soulignant la contribution de ces derniers à la connaissance des dynamiques proposées par la problématique de l’atelier.

Le débat final a été particulièrement riche : il a permis non seulement de croiser les divers regards disciplinaires (anthropologie, géographie, droit, histoire, linguistique) sollicités par la particularité des cas d’étude, mais également de s’appuyer sur ce double ancrage (l’interdisciplinarité et la diversité des cas empiriques) pour avancer dans la réflexion théorique générale. Cela a illustré la pertinence de considérer le Soudan comme un « laboratoire idéal » de l’imbrication des catégories d’ethnicité, de religion, d’identité nationale, que les événements contemporains du soulèvement populaire commencé en décembre 2018 ne font que confirmer. Cette problématique, au cœur du projet AUF-PCSI en cours, continuera de faire l’objet central de la réflexion de l’équipe du projet, qui prévoit la tenue d’un Workshop à Khartoum au début du mois de septembre 2019.

Programme/Abstracts ci-dessous