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Darfur Allegory

The Darfur conflict exploded in early 2003 when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, struck national military installations in Darfur to send a hard-hitting message of resentment over the region’s political and economic marginalization. The conflict devastated the region’s economy, shredded its fragile social fabric, and drove millions of people from their homes. Darfur Allegory is a dispatch from the humanitarian crisis that explains the historical and ethnographic background to competing narratives that have informed international responses. At the heart of the book is Sudanese anthropologist Rogaia Abusharaf’s critique of the pseudoscientific notions of race and ethnicity that posit divisions between “Arab” northerners and “African” Darfuris.
Elaborated in colonial times and enshrined in policy afterwards, such binary categories have been adopted by the media to explain the civil war in Darfur. The narratives that circulate internationally are thus highly fraught and cover over—to counterproductive effect—forms of Darfurian activism that have emerged in the conflict’s wake. Darfur Allegory marries the analytical precision of a committed anthropologist with an insider’s view of Sudanese politics at home and in the diaspora, laying bare the power of words to heal or perpetuate civil conflict.

240 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2021

African Studies

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Political Science: Race and Politics


"The result of more than a decade of research, Darfur Allegory provides a detailed analysis of the region’s multiple causes of social disruption and violence and the world’s inaccurate comprehension of them. Sudanese anthropologist Abusharaf. . .examines the interwoven ethnographic, historical, economic, and political realities that constitute the lived experiences of the Darfuri. Conducted in the Sudan, among the Sudanese community in Qatar and with emigres in Israel and the US, her fieldwork challenges and redefines accepted theoretical models and explores the alternative explanations of the destructions of Darfuri society through the (often unheard) voices of the Darfuri themselves, using original translations from both Fur and Arabic."


"An anthropologist’s critique of the pseudoscientific notions of race and ethnicity that have been adopted by the media to explain the Darfur civil war."

The Bookseller

“In this book, Abusharaf’s astute critical faculties are on full display. She uses a distinctive blend of incisive theory, political acuity, and personal narrative to challenge widely held presuppositions about this long-running conflict. Darfur Allegory once more affirms Abusharaf’s standing as one of Africa’s leading diasporic minds.”

Grant Farred, Cornell University

“By including verbatim Fur testimonials and Arabic texts translated and analyzed here for the first time, Darfur Allegory corrects and complicates the international press’s coverage of the conflict. Thanks to Abusharaf’s wisdom and courage in not oversimplifying, we see the complexities in the disputing parties’ positions and gain a surer footing to bring this heart-rending conflict to a peaceful solution.”

Steven C. Caton, Harvard University

“Full of innovative findings, Darfur Allegory is a masterful work for anyone eager to learn crucial lessons about the impact of intersecting levels of violence. Abusharaf successfully lays the foundation for reconsidering Darfur.”

Tukufu Zuberi, University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Prelude: Unmuting Darfuri Voices

Chapter 1: Encountering Darfur and Its Troubles

Chapter 2: Producing Knowledge, Historicizing Racial Categories

Chapter 3: Some Views from the Sudan

Chapter 4. Qatar Notes

Chapter 5. “All Dust and Panic”: Sinai Desert-scape

Chapter 6. Darfur’s Jam for Justice in America

Postscript: Darfur the Rhizome

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