Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Katarzyna Grabska. 2014. Gender, Home and Identity: Nuer Repatriation to Southern Sudan

Academic journal article African Studies Quarterly

Katarzyna Grabska. 2014. Gender, Home and Identity: Nuer Repatriation to Southern Sudan

Article excerpt

Katarzyna Grabska. 2014. Gender, Home and Identity: Nuer Repatriation to Southern Sudan. New York: James Currey. 224 pp.

Southern Sudan, Africa's newest state, has had a prolonged and exceedingly painful gestation period before it emergent independent in 2011. The beginning is traced to the mid-20th century when the struggle began to break the grip of the government of then newly independent Sudan over the south, a region had been administered separately by the British and kept cut off from the North. With occasional interludes, the struggle lasted until 2005, earning the dubious distinction of "Africa's longest war." It was far from a straightforward North-South clash. Manifold conflict was waged concurrently within the South between ethnic groups, with some of them allied to the regime in Khartoum. Famine, disease, and flooding completed the apocalyptic experience of the southern Sudanese people: over two million of them perished.

Hundreds of thousands sought safety in neighboring states - Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and even northern Sudan - where they spent endless years in refugee camps looked after by international aid agencies. It was in that stressful, alien environment that the transformation of peoples' identities affecting gender relations occurred. The war between North and South ended in 2005, opening the way for refugees to return home, where many found a scorched earth on which to rebuild their lives. What they found there and how they reacted is the subject matter of Gender, Home and Identity.

While the focus is on post-conflict gender relationships, the author traces the process of their modification to the refugee camp setting, where women and children had to survive as best they could, while men were fighting a war many of them did not survive. The analysis is based on narratives presented by refugees of both sexes about their experiences in the camps and after their return. The author was well placed to record and evaluate them, because she did most of the research in the refugee camps while the conflict was still on, and was able to follow some of the people she met there after their returned home. It was a privileged, intimate, synchronic relationship that underlay a fascinating study in cultural anthropology, with a declared personal interest. …

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