Written: 2008 | Published: February 18, 2021 | Mahmoud El Zain

The political potential of displacement to urban areas: How has the “ethnicdiscourse” transformed the culturally polarized milieu in the Sudan?

Using the events of recent decades in the Sudan, this paper argues that localised as well as regional mass population displacement has caused enormous cultural and political transformation that is often overlooked in scholarship about the Sudan. This reality of bringing intact rural communities to the heart of urban Sudan with increased numbers of community-based organisations, has contributed to displacing the state’s (modernist) development discourse and giving muscles and blood to the “religious”—or the “religiously-cloaked ethnic discourse”—on which the state, since 1983, started to lean as means of acquiring legitimacy. With their demographic weight and culturally-compact presence in and around the capital Khartoum, the displaced rural communities affected an enormous transformation in national politics. They were used by urban political groupings to install and legitimise a religious state in the Sudan; however, ultimately they contributed to discrediting this very religious state.

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