Sudan

With the recent outbreak in fighting between the military and paramilitary forces in Sudan, these books consider the country's complex history.

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Berridge, W. J. Civil uprisings in modern Sudan: the ‘Khartoum Springs’ of 1964 and 1985. Bloomsbury Academic, 2015. 293p bibl index ISBN 9781472574015, $112.00; ISBN 9781472574039 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2015

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In contrast to more recent, well-documented uprisings in Sudan, which have resulted in UN indictments against the current president, this political history recounts two previous popular revolts with more positive outcomes.  The first (1964) overthrew an oppressive military regime that had earlier ousted a civil government two short years after independence.  This democratic restoration lasted until history repeated itself with another military coup in 1969, subsequently routed by a second civilian uprising (1985) that restored democracy to the country again.  Through mining interviews, archival material, and newspaper accounts, mostly in the Arab vernacular, Berridge (global history, Univ. of Northampton, UK) considers the two political cycles, analyzing the roles played by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Communist and other political parties, as well as the universities.  The result is a detailed, informative account of these relatively underreported and little-understood political events for the the English-speaking world.  In the conclusion of this admirable study, Berridge raises the questions of why this cycle repeated itself and why the Sudan has not had a more recent Arab Spring.  His conclusions having to do with the gaps between the center and periphery in that country are suggestive but not entirely convincing. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —W. Arens, Stony Brook University


​Berridge, Willow. Sudan’s unfinished democracy: the promise and betrayal of a people’s revolution, by Willow Berridge et al. Oxford, 2022. 280p bibl index ISBN 9780197657546 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9780197660171 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE March 2023

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The authors—an academic, a writer-researcher, and a think tank leader—join their respective perspectives and experiences to analyze the popular revolutionary movement in Sudan that led to the ouster of 30-year incumbent president Omar al-Bashir in 2019 and its unstable aftermath. They pay particular attention to the large crowds of protesters who drove this “civic revolution,” or “civil uprising,” including their social composition, goals, tactics, and leadership. Other key individual and institutional actors, especially those representing the state and its security forces, are also closely examined. The authors’ engaging narrative provides detailed accounts of the main events of the uprising and the still-ongoing struggle for political resolution amid long-standing structural impediments and constraints. All this is situated in the historical and comparative perspective of Sudan’s history of revolutionary movements and moments, especially those of 1964 and 1985 and the Arab Spring. After considering whether Sudan’s revolutions conform to various theories or models of revolution, the authors conclude that they “do not fit any template other than their own imperfect one” (p. 195). A great book for specialized Africana and international collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals. —J. P. Smaldone, Georgetown University


Collins, Robert O. A history of modern Sudan. Cambridge, 2008. 331p ISBN 9780521858205, $80.00; ISBN 9780521674959 pbk, $27.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2009

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With the continuing interest of the general media and a spate of popular books, including one coauthored by Collins (with J. Millard Burr, Darfur: The Long Road to Disaster, CH, Nov’07, 45-1686), it is important to have an erudite history of this war-torn nation by the recognized dean of Sudanese studies. After a brief consideration of the relevant ecological factors in Sudan (Africa’s largest nation), Collins’s historical overview begins in the first half of the 19th century with the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of the Mahdist state, and the arrival of the European powers, particularly the British. The discussion becomes more detailed with independence in 1956 and subsequent turbulent political events, leading up to the drawn-out conflict between the north and south. As this relatively little-reported conflict drew to a close in 2003, Darfur exploded onto the world stage with enormous attention. Collins (emer., Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) demonstrates the internal as well as the external complexities attending to these conflicts, which for Darfur involved the unsettling role played by neighboring Libya. This informative text is indispensable for African studies collections. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —W. Arens, Stony Brook University


Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. Shari’a and Islamism in Sudan: conflict, law and social transformation. I. B. Tauris, 2012. 343p (International library of African studies, 30) ISBN 9781848856660, $99.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2009

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There are few studies of this quality about the contemporary sociopolitical dynamics of Sudan. Fluehr-Lobban (anthropology, Rhode Island College) has studied this country for 40 years, and made many significant contributions. Sudan’s adoption of Shari’a in 1983 under military auspices went counter to the country’s relatively tolerant Sufi heritage. Shari’a and Islamism in Sudan concentrates on 2005-11, between the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the secession of South Sudan. These changes are examined against a rich background of field research. Fluehr-Lobban gives attention to Shari’a, Islam, and Islamism in Sudanese history; “manufactured” identity through the manipulation of Shari’a; the country’s Civilization Project designed to project Islamic values throughout the country and its consequences; the codification of Shari’a; demographic transformation in the capital; comparison with Iran and Nigeria; and the future of Sudan. Most policy makers, NGO members, and human rights consultants remain ignorant of relevant dynamics, she argues. Islamism as a political movement differs from Islam as a religion. Islamists target vulnerable populations (e.g., women, the poor, or marginalized) as a signal that they are in charge. Fluehr-Lobban’s fieldwork–complicated by her status as an American woman–adds fascinating dimensions to this important book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. —C. E. Welch, University at Buffalo, SUNY


Idris, Amir H. Conflict and politics of identity in Sudan. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. 143p ISBN 1403969396, $59.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE May 2006

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Slaughter in the Darfur region has brought the Sudan temporarily into the spotlight of Western media. This slim volume dissecting the causes of the violence endemic to the contemporary Sudan conveys a big message. The result is based equally on what is said and who is saying it, as the author’s name suggests his Arab and Muslim affiliation. Idris (Fordham Univ.) suggests that precolonial Arab slaving in the southern Sudan, followed by European indirect rule that deliberately aimed at the “tribalization” and fragmentation of the South, set the stage for postcolonial violence. The independent regime, dominated by northerners, treated the southern population as subjects rather than citizens. In presenting his convincing case and noting the present conflict in the northern Darfur region, the author deliberately eschews explanations that depend on conflict between Muslims, Christians, or animists. The author also does not rely on northern versus southern ethnic explanations for the current raging animosity and bloodshed. The author’s more complex argument is, as it should be, more realistic and convincing than what is offered by the media. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate and above. —W. Arens, SUNY at Stony Brook


Massoud, Mark Fathi. Law’s fragile state: colonial, authoritarian, and humanitarian legacies in Sudan. Cambridge, 2014 (c2013). 277p ISBN 9781107026070, $99.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2014

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In this well-researched and well-written book, Massoud (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) demonstrates how the approximately $2.6 billion spent on legal reform projects between 2006 and 2008 represents unrealizable hopes, at least for democratization in cases like Sudan. The author utilizes qualitative, archival, and ethnographic material from 1898 to 2011. Massoud (born in Sudan) examines the complex interrelationships between law and authoritarianism. Despite Sudan’s reputation as a “failed state,” he maintains that “legal politics” can be found through the country’s history. His thought-provoking introduction argues that Sudan’s successive governments (whether colonial, “democratic,” or authoritarian) promoted law for social and political purposes. Chapters 2-4 examine the country’s historical legacy, including British colonial rule (1898-1956), the legal crisis resulting from military coups and violence (1956-89), and the impact of authoritarianism and Islamic law (1989-2011). Massoud then turns to the impact of law on Sudan’s civil society, and to “humanitarian legal politics.” Government officials, authoritarian leaders, and civil society actors interacted in complex ways, and the result is a radically fragmented and unstable legal system, which indicates that democracy cannot be built solely or primarily by efforts to strengthen the rule of law. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, and research collections. —C. E. Welch, University at Buffalo, SUNY


Multidimensional change in the Republic of Sudan (1989–2011): reshaping livelihoods, conflicts and identities, ed. by Barbara Casciarri, Munzoul A. M. Assal, and François Ireton. Berghahn Books, 2015. 374p bibl index afp ISBN 9781782386179, $110.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE October 2015

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It is unusual but refreshing to have a book on contemporary Sudan that does not fixate on the previous and/or ongoing violent conflicts in that country between the north and former southern region, now the independent nation South Sudan.  As this edited volume clearly demonstrates, there is much more going on there of legitimate academic interest.  After a brief editors’ introduction, the following 16 essays by an interdisciplinary and international (mainly Sudanese and French) team of scholars consider in detail the importance of resources in the form of water, oil, and land in both urban and rural areas.  One selection by Irene Panozzo reviews the important role now played by China in this part of the world.  A concluding four-essay section raises more traditional social anthropological topics, such as local level ethnicity, political organization, and language usage, while a finishing epilogue by Roland Marchal wisely sums up the prospects for a “New Sudan.”  Each contribution is lucid and informative, so those with a special interest in this newly reconstructed country will welcome this volume. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students/faculty. —W. Arens, Stony Brook University


The Sudan handbook, ed. by John Ryle et al. James Currey, 2011. 220p ISBN 9781847010308 pbk, $34.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2011

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As South Sudan, the world’s newest country, emerges, it is fortunate to have this up-to-date handbook. The editors from the US, the UK, and Sudan make their sentiments clear from the outset by declaring that Sudan’s problems stem from a concentration of economic and political power at the center of the country and the destructive means used by the government to control the rest of the country. The succeeding essays by distinguished scholars of the area on everything from climate and water sources to ancient history and possible political futures are more objective. Although some of the contributions read as if they were “mailed in” as warmed-over afterthoughts, the majority of the selections, particularly those of the editors, are original and informative. This witness to all that was bad in the past, such as slavery and civil wars (now raging in the Nuba Hills area of central Sudan), and the celebration of all that is good, such as the new nation’s vibrant culture and economic prospects, belongs in all African studies libraries. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. —W. Arens, Stony Brook University