Fateful Futures in the Presence of the Past: Epochalist Hopes at South Sudan’s Independence


Timm Sureau


Hope, understood as a “temporal reorientation of knowledge” (Miyazaki 2004, 5), enacts and changes the future as a precipitate of interaction (Crapanzano 2003, 6). During South Sudan’s independence, an epochalist hope was directed towards an end of the miseries associated with Sudanese rule and government officials of the new state tried to inscribe this hope into symbols. Their idea was to create a strong relation between those symbols of hope and a new national identity, in order to bridge the epochalist anticlimax that necessarily followed the initial moment of independence. Via the examination of two examples of hope from South Sudan, and through scrutiny of the symbols of the flag and the anthem, I describe that hope in the future of South Sudan as it existed in 2011, the symbols and the nation building attempts. I conclude by returning to Frantz Fanon’s warnings against European models and an analysis of how those who follow them fall in the old trap of nationalism, an identity construction that necessarily includes and excludes. In the case of South Sudan this collapsed the country back into an old nightmare of ethnic factionalism, long-standing forms of exploitation with new beneficiaries, and new, violent, forms and acts of exclusion.


Future, Hope, Despair, Nation, South Sudan, Independence, State building, nation-state




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