lisa monaghan

D. H. Johnson (1982). Ngundeng and the "Turuk:" Two Narratives Compared

The historiography of the southern Sudan offers few examples of the critical assessment of sources. Surprisingly, the only conscious attempts at source evaluation have been made by anthropologists or ethnographers. Most historians and political scientists have been preoccupied with chronologies of administration and policy based on colonial documents and have been all too uncritical in accepting these sources for their generalizations on the history of southern Sudanese societies. Part of the reason why the historiography of the southern Sudan has lagged so far behind the rest of Africa in this respect is that, until recently, a limited number of colonial documents were the main sources available on southern Sudanese history, and these remained both unchallenged or uncorroborated by indigenous sources. Over the last ten years, however, it has become possible for scholars to collect and examine a wider variety of local materials in the southern Sudan itself, and the comparison of these materials with the older, better-known, sources can help to produce that creative tension so necessary for any critical advance to be made. 2 There is an urgent need for an evaluation of oral history in the southern Sudan. Oral traditions have been collected for over eighty years, but most of the recorded forms, those found in government files and reports, are composite summaries and interpretations by their collectors--government officials--rather than systematic comparisons of different accounts. In this form it is often difficult to separate the assumptions of the colonial officials from the claims of their informants, a task made particularly difficult by the fact that rarely does the record specify the source of an account or the context in which it was collected. Comparisons of modern accounts, when the source and con-text of the narrative are known, with these older, vaguer records can reveal something about both the traditional history of southern Sudanese societies and the assumption of colonial administrators……

Category: Anthropology and History

Sub-category: International Assistance and Interventions