Beyond “Race” and “Ethnicity”: Toward a Transformative Discourse for Democratic Citizenship

  • Amir H. Idris


The crisis in Darfur and the pitfalls of the north-south peace process have raised serious question about the future of the democratic project in the Sudanese context. How can democratic citizenship be restored in the context of competing racial and ethnic identities? By the late 1980s, scholarly works on transition from authoritarian to democratic regimes in Africa were facing increased critique for their failure to grapple with the historical and political dimensions of democratization challenges.1 In hindsight, blame can be placed on the previous decade’s preoccupation with issues of institutional building that came at the expense of consideration of the existing competing visions of histories and identities in African societies. Contemporary scholarship on Africa’s civil wars is concerned mainly with interaction between elites and with specific models of institutional arrangements conducive to democratic governance. Relationships between democratization of the state and the legacies of the past and its implications to the practice of democratic citizenship in Africa are largely understudied. As a result, many scholars and policy makers interested in the question of democratization in Africa in general, and the Sudan in particular, have made no effort to examine the relationship among histories, identities, and political conflicts in the region.


Ethnic Identity National Identity Racial Identity Political Violence Racialized State 
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  1. 7.
    See Muddathir Abd Al-Rahim (1969) Imperialism and Nationalism in the Sudan, p. 7.Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    The brutal political violence between the Nuer and the Dinka that occurred after the split of 1991 has shown how the legacy of indirect rule continues to haunt people of the Southern Sudan. Since then, fragmentation, individualism, and lack of a consensus characterized the political culture of the Southern Sudan. For a detailed study see Douglas H. Johnson (1998) “The Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Problem of Factionalism,” in Christopher Clapham (ed.) Afiican Guerrillas, Oxford: James Currey, pp. 53–72; also see Jok and Hutchinson, “Sudan’s Prolonged Second Civil War,” pp. 125–145.Google Scholar

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© Amir H. Idris 2005

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  • Amir H. Idris

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