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Felix da Costa, Diana (2023) 'The politics of being Murle in South Sudan: state violence, displacement and the narrativisation of identity.' Journal of Eastern African Studies, 17 (3). pp. 404-423.

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The article offers a nuanced account of how identities are negotiated and contested in South Sudan, by focusing on how Murle and ŋalam identities were deployed in different ways in different places in overlapping periods during a time of armed conflict. As such, it explores the interplay between political violence and the instrumental deployment of ethnicity. Focusing on the 2012–2014 period of war between South Sudan's government and a largely Murle rebellion, it unpacks the longstanding Murle stereotyping as ‘fierce and hostile’ – an image fostered by the interlocution of more powerful neighbours in the colonial encounters and sustained by their dominance in subsequent governance structures. The article specifically discusses how Murle agricultural communities from Boma found protection strategies by activating temporary sub-ethnic identities and navigating the violence of being Murle. This challenges the “naturalised” linkages between modes of subsistence or ecology, and identity, and demonstrates how spatial movements affect the instrumental narrativisation of ethnic identities. The article argues for the continual interplay of ethnicity in relation to the state and its strategies and opportunities. Identity-making and identity-politics are dialctical processes – deployed by the state as much as by those on the receiving end as a source of protection from violence.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Identity politics, ethnicity, narrativisation of identity, conflict, displacement, Murle, South Sudan
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts
ISSN: 17531055
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2023 12:06
Funders: British Academy, Other

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