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Negotiating the state at its margins:
Colonial authority in Condominium Darfur

VAUGHAN, CHRISTOPHER (2011) Negotiating the state at its margins:
Colonial authority in Condominium Darfur
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The period of British colonial rule in Darfur is prominent in current debates about the roots of recent conflict. It has been argued that the colonial policy of ‘Native Administration’, and the ethnicisation of land rights that it imposed, made large scale violence almost inevitable. In this view, colonial rule established a ‘retribalisation’ of politics and society in Darfur, a reversal of the ‘detribalisation’ imposed by the pre-colonial Sultans. In contrast, this thesis argues that British colonial governance in Darfur intensified a tendency towards growing association between local leaders and the state that had begun well before 1916. Rather than regarding colonial rule as a monolithic imposition of state authority from above, this thesis demonstrates the fragmented, negotiated and personalised character of colonial rule at the local level. Whilst colonial rule introduced important innovations (such as territorial boundaries around ethnic homelands and more powerful paramount chiefs), overall its transformative power was rather limited: rather the colonial state had to engage with many of the same political dynamics as its predecessors.

The thesis also shows that Darfuris contracted with colonial authority on the grounds of local chieftaincy and boundary disputes. Rather than simply enforcing state authority, officials were often drawn into local political dynamics by the force of local initiative, particularly that of their clients, the chiefs. The thesis therefore contributes to broader scholarship which emphasises the interactive, negotiated character of colonial rule in Africa. It also locates the roots of the neo-patrimonial culture of the post-colonial Sudanese state in these local dynamics, emphasising the interpenetration between bureaucratic and patrimonial forms of governance which characterised colonial rule in Darfur. The thesis thus challenges the core-periphery model of Sudanese political geography by arguing for the importance of ‘peripheral’ political cultures in determining the character of the Sudanese state.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Colonial history Sudan Darfur British Empire
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Jun 2011 10:12

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