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Centre of African Studies: Events


Making Racism in Sudan

Making Racism in Sudan: Racial Relationships, Identity and the State in Colonial Sudan, 1898-1956
Speaker: Elena Vezzadini # Centre d’Études Africaines, L’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris
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Date and Time
7th Mar 2012 16:00 - 7th Mar 2012 18:00
Faculty Room South, David Hume Tower



In this presentation, I wish to introduce my postdoctoral research project on the construction of racial identities in colonial Sudan, which I started in December 2011 with the Norwegian Research Council. The first question to explore is to which extent the concepts of ‘racism’ and ‘racist relations’ can be useful in the context of colonial (and postcolonial) Sudan. I will first give a definition of these concepts through the framework of the racial theories proposed by Feagin, and Omi and Winant, and explain why this approach, which attributes a great important to the state in shaping racism, is important for Sudanese history. It is obvious that Sudanese agents had a crucial role to define, develop, reshape, negotiate, and resist racial categories, but in this presentation I will focus on the role of the colonial state in making differences labelled as racial concretely operative. As a case in point, I will analyze three colonial institutions, namely the school, the army and the Labour Bureau. This study will emphasize the fact that, albeit a racial ideology was widespread among colonial administrators, there was no homogeneous racial policy in the colonial state. On the contrary each of those state institutions followed their own agendas, set different priorities, and had diverging internal logics in term of racial choices, logics which were at times in sharp conflict with each other and did generate unwanted consequences. Yet, each of them contributed in its own way to substantiate the idea that the Sudan was divided into two races, the one more 'developed' than the other.