Empire and the Nuer
The Nuer people of South Sudan hold a special if unwanted place in imperial history as the object of Britain’s last ‘pacification’ campaign in Africa. Territorial conquest was completed with the annexation of the independent sultanate of Darfur in 1916, but military pacification continued throughout the first thirty years of the twentieth century, culminating in ‘the Nuer Settlement’.
These campaigns are important for another reason: they were the cause of the Sudan government redirecting the anthropologist, E.E. Evans-Pritchard (against his will) to study of the Nuer, which he did in a succession of field visits between 1930 and 1936. The trilogy of monographs that he published were formative in the development of British social anthropology and are one of the main reasons why the Nuer are so well-known internationally today.
This volume consists of twenty-five administrative reports, supplemented by transcripts of five interviews with Nuer and Dinka participants. Together these cover the significant events in the contact, conquest, and pacification of the Nuer from 1898 to 1930. The documents contain some of the earliest twentieth-century ethnographic descriptions of the Nuer and their Dinka and Mabaan neighbours. Together these sources provide an historical context for further understanding Evans-Pritchard’s ethnography, as well as a more detailed understanding of the events that led to incorporation of the Nuer into the colonial state.
The final document is an abstract of a talk given by Evans-Pritchard to the Oxford Summer School on Colonial Administration in 1938. This contained observations, based in part on his fieldwork among the Nuer, which are relevant today to understanding the post-independence history of South Sudan. This book is a significant contribution to the source materials on the history of South Sudan and for the study of the relationship between colonial states and the development of the discipline of social anthropology.
Author: Douglas H. Johnson
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