“The lands of the Blacks”: Arabness and Blackness in Sudanese History

Presentation by Heather Sharkey (University of Pennsylvania)
Jeudi 24 janvier 2013, CEAf, 96 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris

dans le cadre du séminaire “Anthropologie et histoire du Sahel musulman (du Sénégal au Soudan): hiérarchies sociales,”
Centre d’Études africaines, Paris, January 24, 2013.

The lands of the Blacks. Arabness and Blackness in Sudanese History.
In the early Islamic era, Arab Muslim geographers called the region south of the Sahara Bilad al-Sudan, meaning “the lands of the Blacks”. Today, there are two countries, the Republic of the Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan, which continueto bear part of this name, attesting to historical notions of blackness associated with people in the region. In my talk, I will survey evolving ideas about the relationship of “Arabs” to “Blacks” in Sudanese history. I will discuss perceptions of the role of Arabs in transforming the linguistic and religious landscape of the region; the process of becoming Arab (i.e., “Arabization”); the connection of blackness to legacies of slavery; and finally, the place of “the Sudan” relative to Africa and western Asia. These ideas have shaped – and will continue to shape – political debates in the region.


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