Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan
Politics and the Body in a Squatter Settlement
Over twenty years of civil war in predominantly Christian Southern Sudan has forced countless people from their homes. Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan examines the lives of women who have forged a new community in a shantytown on the outskirts of Khartoum, the largely Muslim, heavily Arabized capital in the north of the country.
Sudanese-born anthropologist Rogaia Mustafa Abusharaf delivers a rich ethnography of this squatter settlement based on personal interviews with displaced women and careful observation of the various strategies they adopt to reconstruct their lives and livelihoods. Her findings debunk the myth that these settlements are utterly abject, and instead she discovers a dynamic culture where many women play an active role in fighting for peace and social change. Abusharaf also examines the way women’s bodies are politicized by their displacement, analyzing issues such as religious conversion, marriage, and female circumcision.
An urgent dispatch from the ongoing humanitarian crisis in northeastern Africa, Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan will be essential for anyone concerned with the interrelated consequences of war, forced migration, and gender inequality.
“Transforming Displaced Women in Sudan is one of the most powerful ethnographies of war, displacement, and forced migration I have read. The book provides cultural analysis of marginalization as well as local articulation of reconciliation in the context of inter-communities’ search for peaceful coexistence. Its explication of gender as it intersects with major trends in Sudanese state and society is superb. As a Sudanese scholar, I find its interweaving of culture and politics—issues that lie at the very heart of Sudan’s political future—truly masterly.”
“Abusharaf’s study is urgent anthropology and feminist ethnography at its best and is one of the most valuable contributions to studies of displaced people—at once personal, lucid, fluid, urgent, and theoretically compelling. She has crafted a powerful portrait of displaced women that is devoid of romanticization and tales of victimization. The women of the camps, asking in various ways, ‘Who are we becoming?’ are engrossed in everyday negotiations with other camp dwellers, with the state, and with themselves, while trying to sustain themselves in grim situations and move forward. Abusharaf portrays these journeys with respect, sensitivity, and insight.”