Sudan: War and Slavery in Sudan

By Howard, W. Stephen | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Sudan: War and Slavery in Sudan


Howard, W. Stephen, The Middle East Journal


War and Slavery in Sudan, by Jok Madut Jok. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. xv + 179 pages. Notes to p. 196. Bibl. to p. 200. Index to p. 211.$55 cloth; $24.95 paper.

On a crowded bus traveling in northern Sudan, it is not uncommon for youthful fights to break out, and when the cry of `abid! (slave) rises from the struggle, one knows that the combatants represent elements of Sudan's north-south divide. Sudan is possibly the most damaged country on the African continent by the geographical determinism of colonialism, and Jok Madut Jok's book, War and Slavery in Sudan, carefully explains how that terrible legacy continues today, an uneasy polity marked by slavery in the 21st century.

It is shocking to the West that chattel slavery would continue anywhere in the world given the West's own bitter struggles to end it at home and abroad. But Jok's book provides calm historical detail and painful testimony from victims of slavery in Sudan. He illustrates one of the world's great unseen conflicts, the war over people and resources in South Sudan, so termed by the author for its secessionist connotation and because "the expression South Sudan confers a distinct and bounded national identity for the people who live in this region" (p. xiv). The civil war in Sudan is unresolved, disastrous, and murderous; it is not surprising that the North's perspective does not have a champion in the scholarly literature. Jok has contributed an outstanding academic work on the perspective of the South asking and answering the excellent and important questions about this difficult topic. This is an old story, and the author provides a new way to learn about it.

Jok studies a vast region straddling the river known as Kiir to the Dinka and Bahr-al-Arab to the Arabic-speakers. The Kiir is near the line that divides North and South Sudan. …

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