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Love, duty and burden: Mothers’ and daughters’ engagements with familial obligations

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The proliferation of transnational migration has attracted scholars from diverse disciplines to investigate the experiences of migrants from different cultures. While cultural anthropologists are trained to understand the subjects’ emic perspectives, other social scientists who grapple with cultural diversity tend towards applying an etic analytical lens, without deeper engagement with given cultural logics. In order…

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Speaking Truth To Power in South Sudan: Oral histories of the Nuer prophets

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Prophets—those recognised as having been ‘seized’ by a divinity—have played an important role in the history of South Sudan, particularly that of the Nuer people. They were seen as being powerful political actors and, alongside chiefs, important intermediaries for the colonial authorities. However, the influence of the Nuer prophets goes much further than mobilizing or…

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“One” But Divided: Tribalism and Grouping among Secondary School Students in South Sudan

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This ethnographic study reconsiders the concept of tribe and its influence on group boundary‐making practices in South Sudan. The findings revealed ways in which students manipulated their group boundaries by giving different meanings to nominal category of tribe. Further, the study unveiled that, moving in and out from those boundaries, students live in a complex…

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Customary Authorities Displaced: The experience of Western Equatorians in Ugandan refugee settlements

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South Sudan’s violent conflicts continue to plague its people. An estimated four million South Sudanese have been forcibly displaced since December 2013, and more than a million have sought refuge in Uganda where communities have largely reassembled without their traditional or customary leaders. Customary Authorities Displaced examines the consequences of conflict and displacement on traditional…

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Caught Between Two Cultures: When aid in South Sudan is pulled between local norms and western systems

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Kinship and community support-based social security mechanisms are vital for the survival of South Sudanese in times of crisis. They are based on concepts and longstanding practices of mutual support, social obligation and vulnerability. These concepts can conflict with western ideals of transparency, accountability and “fair” allocation of resources, including aid. As a result, socially…

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Ebola preparedness and traditional healers in South Sudan

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This review focuses on the evidence on Ebola preparedness in South Sudan through an anthropological lens, looking at informal and traditional health care systems. It presents the evidence on how these can be utilised for surveillance, behaviour change communication, and vaccinations in the case of an Ebola outbreak, including: establishing surveillance of these services and…

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“We need good nutrition but we have no money to buy food”: sociocultural context, care experiences, and newborn health in two UNHCR-supported camps in South Sudan

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Background: Determinants of newborn health and survival exist across the reproductive life cycle, with many sociocultural and contextual factors influencing outcomes beyond the availability of, and access to, quality health services. In order to better understand key needs and opportunities to improve newborn health in refugee camp settings, we conducted a multi-methods qualitative study of…

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Play, childhood, and playthings in Bor, South Sudan, 2009–2010

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This essay contributes to the comparative ethnography of play by reporting on children’s descriptions of play in Bor, South Sudan. By situating play within the socio-political and economic structures that organize Bor Town society it describes children’s everyday lives, critical imaginations, and experiences in a place where playfulness has been neglected by a focus on…

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The Roots of Restraint in War

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The Roots of Restraint in War is an update of the 2004 Roots of Behaviour in War. Based on two years of research collaboration between the ICRC and six distinguished scholars, the report identifies sources of influence on various types of armed forces and armed groups, ranging from those with a highly decentralized structure to…

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Politics, Power and Chiefship in Famine and War: A study of the former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, South Sudan

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South Sudan’s civil war has spread across the country, fuelling economic collapse and food shortages, and sending millions of residents fleeing across its borders. Although the former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State has escaped the worst excesses of the current conflict—in part because it is a supposed heartland of South Sudan’s ruling politicalmilitary elites—it is also…

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The role of transnational networks and mobile citizens in South Sudan’s global community: A pilot study focused on Melbourne and Juba

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In this study, through research undertaken both in South Sudan and in one of the most active global South Sudanese communities in Australia, the team has attempted to take a broader perspective to understand the nature of the South Sudan’s refugee communities impact on South Sudan—and the mechanisms through which it is felt—more comprehensively.

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The militarization of cattle raiding in South Sudan: how a traditional practice became a tool for political violence

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Cattle raiding, a longstanding practice among pastoralists in South Sudan, was historically governed by cultural authorities and ritual prohibitions. However, after decades of on-and-off integration into armed forces, raiders are now heavily armed, and military-style attacks claim dozens if not hundreds of lives at a time. Beginning with the emergence of the infamous Lou Nuer…

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The Religious Framing of the South Sudanese Civil Wars: The Enduring Legacy of Ngundeng’s Prophecy

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This artcile discusses how a religious idea informed the political behaviour of South Sudanese leaders in the context of civil wars and the associated bitter contest for leadership. The prophecy which is invoked in the leadership contest in South Sudan is the prophecy of the 19th century Nuer prophet, Ngundeng Bong believed to predicted the…

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“The dead are just to drink from”: recycling ideas of revenge amongst the western Dinka, South Sudan

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Governments in South Sudan have long built their authority on their ability to fashion changing regimes of revenge and compensation, war and peace. Governments’ capture of these regimes has resulted in the secularisation of compensation despite the ongoing spiritual consequences of lethal violence. This article explores these issues by focusing on the western Dinka of…

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Poisoning at the periphery: allocating responsibility across the Uganda/South Sudan borderlands

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This paper presents ethnographic evidence from three sites across the Uganda/South Sudan borderlands. At each location, procedures to identify alleged poisoners were documented. Novel voting processes were initiated by hybrid local authorities. Addressing widespread anxiety about proximate wrong-doing seemed to promote order locally. In this paper, we discuss similarities between locations and review what constitutes…

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It takes a village to raise a militia: local politics, the Nuer White Army, and South Sudan’s civil wars

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Why does South Sudan continue to experience endemic, low intensity conflicts punctuated by catastrophic civil wars? Reporters and analysts often mischaracterise conflicts in the young country of South Sudan as products of divisive ‘tribal’ or ‘ethnic’ rivalries and political competition over oil wealth. More nuanced analyses by regional experts have focused almost exclusively on infighting…

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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…

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Contesting the Militarization of the Places Where They Met: the Landscapes of the Western Nuer and Dinka (South Sudan)

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Decades of militarized, violent conflict and elite wealth acquisition have created a common rupture in shared landscapes between communities of the western Dinka and Nuer (South Sudan). Through the remaking of these landscapes, governments and their wars have indirectly reshaped political identities and relationships. Networks of complex relationships have used this space for migration, marriage,…

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South Sudan: A New History for a New Nation

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Africa’s newest nation has a long history. Often considered remote and isolated from the rest of Africa, and usually associated with the violence of slavery and civil war, South Sudan has been an arena for a complex mixing of peoples, languages, and beliefs. The nation’s diversity is both its strength and a challenge as its…

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