ÒWar and Slavery in SudanÓ



Jok Madut Jok
240 pages, 4 black-and-white illustrations, 2 maps, $24.95 paper

Slavery has been endemic in Sudan for thousands of years. Today the Sudanese slave trade persists as a complex network of buyers, sellers, and middlemen that operates most actively when times are favorable.

Now is one such time, according to Jok Madut Jok, anthropologist and professor of history at Loyola Marymount University. The Sudanese civil war that resumed in 1983 rages on between the Arab north and the black south. Permitted and even encouraged by the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, the state military has captured countless women and children from the south and sold them into slavery in the north to become concubines, domestic servants, farm laborers, or even soldiers trained to fight against their own people. Islamic groups in and outside of the United States vehemently deny it.

In his bold study based on first-hand field work, Jok emphasizes that the contemporary practice of slavery in Sudan is not the result of two decades of civil war. Instead he revisits the historic hostilities between the Islamic world to the north and the black African peoples to the south, many of whom are Christian converts. For Arab traders “the nation of the blacks,” or Bilad Al-Sudan, has traditionally been the source of slaves. When the slave trade developed into corporate enterprise in the 19th century, the slave-takers articulated distinctions based on race, ethnicity and religion that marked the black, infidel southerners as indisputably inferior and therefore “natural” slaves.

“War and Slavery in Sudan,” the latest volume in Penn Press’s acclaimed Ethnography of Political Violence series, exposes the enslavement of black peoples in Sudan which has been exacerbated, if not caused, by the circumstance of war. As a black southerner and a Dinka, a group targeted by Arab slave traders, Jok brings an insider’s perspective to this highly volatile subject matter.

—University of Pennsylvania Press


Originally published on May 31, 2001