Sudan’s Tea Ladies and the Legacy of Slavery

Keywords: Sudan, slavery, women, ethnographic research, city

Abstract

This paper presents the institution of roadside mini-cafes run by women – mostly poor migrants from peripheral or war-torn regions of Sudan – on Forty Days Road Street, one of the main streets of Omdurman. These cafes are not only one of the many examples of women’s informal activism in an urban environment, but also an institution in which the legacy of slavery is present. This dates back to precolonial times when the peoples of the Nile valley were slave-raiding and slave-owning. The author looks at the institution of roadside mini-cafe as something particularly important for the urban iconography of power, in which – using the terms of structural anthropology – a series of oppositions are materialised: formal/informal, male/female, dominant/subordinate and Middle Eastern/African. The relations to slavery hidden in this particular institution help city dwellers (mostly men from the Muslim majority and Arab culture) in arranging hierarchies, rivalry and legitimating status. Gender and informality are particularly meaningful in this context as both strengthen the situation of radical inequality, intensify and constitute politics of dominance on the one hand and of subordination on the other. This paper is based on ethnographic research which was undertaken in the Khartoum agglomeration in 2013.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Maciej Kurcz, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology Univeristy of Silesia in Katowice

PhD Hab., Univ. of Silesia Professor

References

Ami r I. 2013. Identity, Citizenship, and Violence in Two Sudans: Reimagining a Common Future. New York (https://books.google.pl/books?id=zXBtAAAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Idris,+Identity,+Citizenship,+and+Violence+in+Two+Sudans:+Reimagining+a+Common+Future&hl=pl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy_rvw0aPdAhXDZVAKHeY_CnwQ6AEIKjAA#v=onepage&q= Idris%2C%20Identity%2C%20Citizenship%2C%20and%20Violence%20in%20Two%20Sudans%3A%20Reimagining%20a%20Common%20Future&f=false). Access: 15.09.2018.
B a l e s K. 1999. Disposable People. New Slavery in Global Economy. Berkley, Los Angeles, London.
B a l e s K., Tr o d d Z. A., Wi l l i ams o n K. (eds). 2011. Modern Slavery. A Beginner’s Guide. Oxford (https://books.google.pl/books?id=KQzaU01lLb8C&printsec=froerkleyntcover&dq=Kevin+Bales,+Zoe+Trodd,+Alex+Kent+Williamson+2011&hl=pl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjIgo6Q8KbdAhXLPFAKHfM_AWgQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=Kevin%20Bales%2C%20Zoe%20Trodd%2C%20Alex%20Kent%20Williamson%202011&f=false). Access: 15.09.2018.
B a l e s K. 2005. Understanding Global Slavery. A Reader. Berkley, Los Angeles, London.
B a r c l a y W. B. 1964. Buuri al Lamaab: a Buburban Village in the Sudan. N. Y.
B r e i d l i d A., S a i d A. A., B r e i d l i d A. K. (eds). 2014 (1st ed. 2010). A Concise History of South Sudan. New and Revised Edition. Kampala.
J o h n s o n H. D. 2011 (1st ed. 2003). The Root Causes of Sudan’s Civil Wars. Suffolk.
J o k M. J. 2001. War and Slavery in Sudan. Philadelphia.
K u r c z M. 2007. Za trzecią kataraktą. Poznań, Kraków.
M a k r i s G. P. 2000. Changing Masters: Spirit Possession and Identity Construction among Slave Descendants and other Subordinates in the Sudan. Evanston.
M u n z o u l A. S. A. 2011. From the Country to the Town. In J. Ryle. J. Willis, S. Baldo, J. M. Jok (eds.), The Sudan Handbook. Suffolk. 63–70.
O’C o n n e l l D a v i d s o n J. 2015. Modern Slavery. Margins of Freedom. Palgrave Macmillan (https://books.google.pl/books?id=HWekCgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=O%60Connell+Davidson+2015&hl=pl&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixlJzh06jdAhXSa1AKHf5TCecQ6AEIJzAA#v=o
nepage&q=O%60Connell%20Davidson%202015&f=false). Access: 15.09.2018.
A women from the Madi tribe, one of the many societies of South Sudan affected by slavery, Juba. Photo: M. Kurcz 2008.
Published
2019-12-15
How to Cite
Kurcz, M. (2019). Sudan’s Tea Ladies and the Legacy of Slavery. Ethnologia Polona, 40, 277-289. Retrieved from http://journals.iaepan.pl/ethp/article/view/34