Ten years into South Sudan’s independence, the world’s newest nation-state is confronted by constant challenges, but alongside these uncertainties, new realities and potentialites have emerged. This roundtable, the first of its kind to exclusively focus on South Sudan in the history of AAA Annual Meetings, will bring together several scholars of South Sudan to discuss their insights on post-independence South Sudan. Discussing their own and each other’s work, their aim will be to suggest new lines of thinking that move beyond extant, limited framings of South Sudan’s situation as one of “crisis” and “failure.” Such notions, which characterize popular and academic understandings of South Sudan and postcolonial contexts more broadly, normalize neocolonial interventions while offering little sense of the lived realities, emerging dynamics, and complexities within such spaces. The discussants seek to explore how situations in South Sudan might be alternatively read as as processes of becoming, acts of re-making, or strivings toward future possibilities (Biehl and Locke 2017; Pink, Akama and Sumartojo 2018; Goldstone and Obarrio 2016). Drawing on the varied interests of the roundtable participants, the roundtable aims to explore the topics of medical humanitarianism, urban practices, peacemaking, displacement and return, gender dynamics and gender-based violence, and youth and education. Bringing together scholars from three continents discussing their recent and ongoing work on South Sudan, this roundtable will shed light on the stakeholders, designs, and mechanisms that are significant in the formation of a future-oriented South Sudan and illuminate ways in which domestic and international actors are engaged in this process. We are particularly interested in the liminal space(s) between uncertainties and hopes that carry political implications. Such a discussion will offer valuable insights for re-thinking precarity in challenged circumstances in postcolonial and conflict-affected spaces within Africa and across the globe. In keeping with the conference theme of 'Truth and Responsibility,' this discussion will also intervene in the long anthropological consideration of South(ern) Sudan stretching back to the long-debated colonial ethnography of E.E. Evans-Pritchard. With little sustained ethnographic work in South Sudan in the long period of civil war spanning the 1960s to 2006 (the work of Sharon Hutchinson and Jok Madut Jok being notable exceptions), this roundtable and its participants’ own work respond to a pressing need for a revitalized understanding of the lifeways and realities faced by people from cultural contexts famous to any scholar or student of anthropology. In reflecting on their own and each other’s research and insights, the participants will offer vibrant depictions of social and political worlds of South Sudanese people and people tied to South Sudan alongside new theoretical and methodological frames from which to un-think and re-think South Sudan.
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Art and Ethnographic Form in Dark Times: Revisiting Joy, Considering Suffering
AAA Annual Meeting 2021
18 November 2021