Re-negotiating the moral and legal boundaries of violence in South Sudan


7 June 2017


Egmont Institute, 1000 Brussels

Africa Lunch Meeting with Naomi Pendle, researcher at the London School of Economics. Naomi Pendle has published on local justice, prophecy, violence and landscapes in South Sudan since 2009. Her presentation at the Egmont Institute will be based on ethnographic fieldwork amongst the Dinka of Bahr el Ghazal and will address how international commentators and South Sudanese have often described the national and local wars in South Sudan in terms of revenge and unending cycles of tit-for-tat killings. Senior Dinka commanders have even described government militias’ actions as revenge for killings in the 1990s. Yet, policy responses to the situation in South Sudan need to be careful to avoid assumptions that revenge is indicative of a South Sudanese propensity to violence or a sign of the absence of the state. Violent revenge amongst the western Dinka is best understood as a consequence of the projection of governments’ powers over the details of local, normative codes and sanctions. In this age of post-state violence with automatic weapons, oil-wealthy elites and ambiguous rights, government has politicized the exchange of compensation and has disrupted the cattle economy that is the foundation of compensation’s ability to appease the spiritual and moral demands for revenge.

(Photo credit: Oxfam East Africa, Flickr)