Sudan's Blood Memory:

Sudan's Blood Memory:

The Legacy of War, Ethnicity, and Slavery in South Sudan

Stephanie Beswick


University of Rochester Press



A history of Southern Sudan, from pre-colonial times to the present.
This book shows how the modern-day Sudan has been haunted by the distant past and presents the voices of two hundred peoples of South Sudan, a region which according to some "has no history." Many societies, worldwide, particularly those that have been non-literate, possess oral histories reaching back many centuries. They possess long memories, especially about wars and events of great trauma. Labeled "blood memories" in this book, the author presents a pre-colonial history of Southern Sudan. Beginning in the fourteenth century, the book follows the region's largest ethnic group today, the Dinka, from their original homelands in the central Sudanese Gezira between the Blue and White Niles, into their more recently adopted homelands in Southern Sudan. The book demonstrates how fierce wars, ethnic struggles, and expansion shaped the "inner" history of the south today. External slave trades by Muslim cattle nomads from West Africa, the Baggara, further shaped the socio-political and military culture of the region. The book ends at the dawning of the Egyptian colonial era in 1821. Then, by way of an epilogue, it demonstrates how these earlier pre-colonial stresses have come to play a critical role in modern-day South Sudan, in what has since become the world's longest civil war, presently fought externally against the fundamentalist Islamic Northern Sudanese government as well as internally within the south itself.

Stephanie Beswick is Professor of History at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She was born in Khartoum, Sudan.

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218 pages
6x9 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
Paperback, 9781580462310, January 2006
Hardback, 9781580461511, January 2004
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS001040, SOC002010, POL045000
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Table of Contents

Geography and Brief History of Sudan
The Changing Nilotic Frontier
Slave Raids, Wars, and Migrations
Communities of the Sobat/Nile Confluence: The Padang
Communities on the Eastern Nile: The Bor
Communities in the Southwest: The Southern Bahr el-Ghazal
Communities in the Northwest: The Northern Bahr el-Ghazal
Grain, Cattle, and Economic Power
Totemic Religion
Human Sacrifice, Virgins, and River Spirits
Priests, Politics, and Land
Ethnic Expansion by Marriage
Sovereign Nations Within the Dinka
Eighteenth-Century Slavers and Traders
Nilotic Chaos: Dika, Nuer, Atwot, and Anyuak
Politics and Stratification among Stateless Peoples
Summary and History
Legacy of the Pre-Colonial Era


Broad in scope, and based on rigorous research and extensive fieldwork, [Beswick's] book makes a lasting contribution to Sudanese studies and will appeal broadly to scholars of African oral history and migration. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN STUDIES

This book is full of big ideas and detailed commentary, resulting in a satisfying intellectual experience. Highly recommended. CHOICE

This book is a remarkable achievement that establishes a definitive standard for all future Dinka studies, a foundation of clarity, comprehension, and creativity. It should be required reading in all government, nongovernment, and humanitarian agencies whose employees work with the Dinka. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

Clearly an important and original contribution to the study of the history of Sudan and of Dinka history in particular. MODERN AFRICAN STUDIES

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