The Spectacle of Death: Visibility and Concealment at an Unfinished Memorial in South Sudan

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This article examines an attempt to build a memorial to local victims of civil war in South Sudan. The memorial commemorates the mass execution of civilians in 1964, close to the town of Gogrial in a rural part of South Sudan. During this massacre, local people were killed and their bodies piled up into a macabre structure by the side of the road, as a warning against supporting the Anya-Nya insurgency. This is an example of non-state memorialisation, which sheds light on the repertoires and regimes of memory that memorials draw on and their local and political resonances. Particularly striking is the way the memorial builders have incorporated global technologies of memory and put them in dialogue with local recollections of a massacre, historic Dinka myths about building out of bodies, and the politics of the dead and post-liberation memory in South Sudan. This has produced a fascinating – but ultimately unrealised – memorial which complicates some of the major themes in academic understandings of memorialisation in Africa, especially the stress laid on tensions between ‘official’ and ‘vernacular’ regimes of memory. The memorial is not a site of ‘counter-memory’; rather, it inserts a local event into an official national narrative of liberation.

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Zoe Cormack

Zoe Cormack joined The Open University in September 2014 to work on the ESRC-funded project Cultural Rights and Kenya's New Constitution. Mrs. Cormack completed a PhD in the History Department at Durham University (2010-2014) with Dr. Cherry Leonardi. Her thesis was a historical-ethnography of landscape in Warrap State of South Sudan. Before, mrs. Cormack studied for a BSc. in Anthropology at UCL (2005-2008) and an MSc. in African Studies at Oxford University (2009-2010).

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