War of Visions: Conflict of Identities in the Sudan

Synopsis

The civil war that has raged intermittently in the Sudan since independence in 1956 is a conflict of contrasting and seemingly incompatible identities in the Northern and Southern parts of the country. Identity is seen as a function of how people identify themselves and are identified by others in terms of race, ethnicity, culture, language, and religion. The identity question relates to how such concepts determine or influence participation and distribution in the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the country. War of Visions sheds light on the anomalies of the identity conflict and presents competing models: the Arab-Islamic mold of the North, representing two thirds of the country in territory and population, and the remaining Southern third, which is indigenously African in race, ethnicity, culture, and religion, with an educated Christianized elite. But although the North is popularly defined as racially Arab, the people are a hybrid of Arab and African elements, with the African physical characteristics predominating in most tribal groups. This configuration is the result of a historical process that stratified races, cultures, and religions and fostered a "passing" into the Arab-Islamic mold that discriminated against the African race and cultures. The outcome of this process is a polarization that is based more on myth than on the realities of the situation. The identity crisis has been further complicated by the fact that Northerners want to fashion the country on the basis of their Arab-Islamic identity, while the South is decidedly resistant.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Washington, DC
Publication year:
  • 1995