Keynote Speech: Heather J. Sharkey – Studying the Two Sudans: Where Do We Go From Here?

Studying the Two Sudans: Where Do We Go From Here?

Heather Sharkey

Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia),


In 2011 the southern third of the Republic of Sudan seceded to form the Republic of South Sudan, adding further complexity to one of the most complicated social and political geographies in the world. Historians, anthropologists, linguists, and others must now grapple with the challenges that this new bi-national situation presents.

On the occasion of this symposium in Paris, which affirms the vitality of “Sudan studies” in France, I propose to consider some of the intellectual, methodological, and ethical challenges that scholars of the region are now facing.  I will also reflect upon two questions that are particularly relevant at this juncture.  First, besides nineteenth- and twentieth-century patterns of state-building and border-drawing, what brought “Sudan” together, not only as a territory or polity, but as an idea?  Second, can we – or should we – continue to assume the potential existence of a singular “Sudanese-ness” now that the international community recognizes two separate Sudans.

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