Call: Conference "Towards a New Social History of Sudan" (Paris, 10-12 December 2019)
The historiography of modern and contemporary Sudan has been shaped by its political history. Indeed, historians have often been called upon to respond to contemporary crises – civil wars, regime changes, international conflicts – often according to criteria of urgency, at the risk of falling into a certain presentism. In this context, social history, which often requires a slower and punctilious form of research, which does not produce ready-made solutions to the country multiple crises, and which put at the centre stage the lives of “ordinary people” (Bayat 2013), has struggled to assert itself on the academic scene. An obvious example of this pattern is the scarcity of academic works on the history of Sudanese women, with the exception of the controversial issue of female genital mutilation. In spite of some recent publications (Brown 2017), in-depth research on themes such as women and arts, the history of women as a changing labour force, the history of the family and its margins, and so on, is still waiting to be carried out by historians.
This conference, which is also a research program, aims to put "ordinary people", women and men, back at the center of Sudan's modern and contemporary history. From the outset, we wish to emphasize that the term "ordinary people" should neither hide nor flatten the teeming complexity of Sudanese society; used heuristically in the context of social history, it refers to individuals, groups, and social classes whose history is seldom visible or investigated, and who cannot be assimilated to the elites who dominate the country's political and economic life. We also wish to consider all the dimensions related to the history of "exceptionally normal" people (according to the famous catchwords by one of the main advocates of micro-history, Eduardo Grendi 1977): their daily lives, beliefs, horizons and desires, their interconnections and circulations, while never forgetting the diversity of the various actors, be it related to their social class or their origin. Even if micro-history has mostly been applied to the study of European history, it has inspired many studies in both Middle Eastern and African history (as with South African historiography.It has also several elements of affinity with non-Europeans historiographic trends such as the Subaltern Studies (in spite of their acknowledged differences). We believe that the crossing of such approaches can lead to new insights
into the history of grassroots actors. Finally, social history has traditionally relied on a heterogeneity of disciplines. Thus, we wish that this conference may be enriched by the inputs of sister disciplines such as historical sociology, anthropology, gender studies, micro-history of economics, demography, and so on.
Taking the social history of "ordinary people", including those of the marginalized peripheries, as a starting point for historical research opens up new perspectives, not only on the political history of the country, but also on the changes, breaks and crises that the country has gone through. This includes the understanding of great popular revolutionary episodes that have been pivotal for its history, such as the one that has been taking place since December 2018 and brought the end of Omar al-Bashir's regime (1989-2019).
The historiographical gap we have just described, however, does not mean the absence of historians interested or working on social history. The problem is rather the scarcity of opportunities to induce synergies among them, to meet and debate with each-other approaches and methodological differences, and to discuss about future developments. One of the main objectives of this conference is thus to give to historians of Sudanese society a venue to meet and discuss. This will, hopefully, give more visibility and impact to social history in all its variations.
The conference will take place in Paris, at the University of Paris 1, Panthéon Sorbonne, on the 10,11, and 12 December 2019. Each day will be introduced by a keynote speaker. Pieces of research on the following themes, from the perspective of social history, are particularly welcome:
- women's history (possible themes: history of women’s work, the history of women and arts, the history of the family and its margins).
- labour history (such as: the history of trade unions, the history of the changing working conditions, left-wing cultures).
- the history of mobilizations (grassroots mobilizations, the history of how ordinary people experience politics, the gendering of politics, etc.).
- Historiography and the construction of historical knowledge.
- Intellectual history “from below”.
Small scholarships will be available to cover the travel costs for two-three Master or PhD students traveling from Sudan. Students from Sudan should contact us well in advance for settling all issues related to visa.
Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent by 15 October 2019. The document should also include: title, author's name, telephone number, email address, affiliation, and of course abstract.
Because we aim to publish the papers of the contributors to the conference, we strongly encourage participants to submit a full draft (5,000-8,000 words) by 30 November 2019, so that they may be circulated among the contributors and given a feedback.
Contact info (NB: if you write to one of us, please put the others in CC) Elena Vezzadini, firstname.lastname@example.org Anael Poussier, email@example.com Jean-Nicolas Bach: firstname.lastname@example.org
Organised by: IMAF/CEDEJ Khartoum/Paris 1/CNRS