WORKING ON THIS PROJECT for the past decade has become an exhilarating intellectual and personal journey, mixed with relentless feelings of hope and despair. At times it felt as if I were carrying my ideas about the Sudan project around the globe in several travel bags, searching for places of intellectual care and refuge to work on them, share them, and finally bring them to fruition. I conceived, wrote, or revised bits of this manuscript in the Sudans, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, France, and the United Arab Emirates. Although I had anticipated finishing the task sooner, the turbulent changes and political transformations in the Sudans dictated otherwise. I am indebted to many institutions, colleagues, friends, and family members for their valuable support over the years. Their belief in me and in this endeavor made this book possible.
I launched this project in 2007 with generous grants from Rackham Graduate School, the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the African Studies Center at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their financial assistance enabled me to carry out the intensive fieldwork needed for the study. In March 2012, I received two additional awards from the University of Michigan: the Associate Professor Fund from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), and the Human Rights Award from the Program in Comparative and International Studies. These awards supported the follow-up and completion of the fieldwork and the beginning of the data analysis. The financial support I received from the University of Michigan and the intellectual conversations with my colleagues in the Department of Women’s Studies, the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and the Department of Anthropology have been crucial to the development of this book and my overall career. I especially thank Abigail Stewart, Elizabeth Cole, Valerie Traub, Sandra Gunning, Rosario Ceballo, Leela Fernandes, Elisha Renne, Tiya Miles, Angela Dillard, Frieda Ekotto, Howard Stein, Derek Peterson, Deborah Keller-Cohen, Andrew Shryock, Naomi André, Raymond Silverman, Anne Pitcher, Martin Murray, Kelly Askew, Adam Ashforth, and each and every one of my other colleagues who offered support through the years. I also extend special thanks to the department staff members, who provide continuous support to help us pursue our scholarly work: Wayne High, Elizabeth James, Faye Portis, Donna Ainsworth, and Patricia Mackmiller.
In 2013 I was named a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, DC, with support to begin writing the manuscript during a nine-month residency. This fellowship was significant for many reasons. The center and its architecture of intellectual care helped me and other scholars share our work, engage with policy makers, and present our work at various forums. I am forever indebted to the directors and to my colleagues at the center for their generous engagement. Special thanks to Robert Litwak, Steve McDonald, Haleh Esfandiari, Michael Van Dusen, Monde Muyangwa, and Alan Goulty. Thanks also to members of the staff, especially Kimberly Conner, Lindsay Collins, Aniel Krishna, Maria-Stella Gatzoulis, and librarian Janet Spikes. Special thanks to my research assistant, Katherine Fiely, for her help with data collection and organization during my residency. At the center, I benefited from discussing my work with the scholars of the 2013–14 cohort and the small writing group we formed. I am especially grateful for my exchanges with Hope Harrison, Donny Meertens, Anne-Marie Brady, Mae Nagi, Maria Cristina Garcia, Sayuri Shimizu, and Alison Brysk.
This book could not have been finalized without two additional significant awards: a seven-month Mercator fellowship from the Department of Anthropology and Philosophy at the University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany and a one-semester LSA Humanities Award from the University of Michigan. At the University of Halle I was hosted by the vibrant anthropology group “LOST” (Law, Organization, Science, and Technology), chaired by Professor Richard Rottenburg. I learned a great deal while in residency with the group of scholars at LOST, especially from their weekly seminars, their debates of urgent African issues, and their creativity in fostering dynamic and productive group work. I am indebted to Professor Rottenburg for organizing the warm welcome and generous hospitality I received at Halle and for facilitating my connection with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. I thank all my colleagues at LOST and the Max Planck Institute for making my stay at Halle so memorable, and give a special thank-you to the administrative team and staff at the two units. Cornelia Heimann and Ronn Müller particularly deserve acknowledgment for so gracefully handling the laborious administrative details of my stay in Germany. My ultimate gratitude goes to many students and colleagues who found the time to show me around, stop by during my writing breaks at Café Rosenburg or Haus und Hof, or join me during my routine walks along the Saale River as we exchanged ideas and shared our work. Thank you, Mariam Mahjoub Sharif, Enrico Ille, Laura Matt, Zahir Abdel Karim, Andrea Behrends, Timm Sureau, David Kananizadeh, Maria Stilidi, Kati Illmann, Boris Wille, Stefanie Bognitz, Nadine Adam, Sung-joon Park, Siri Lamoureaux, Benjamin Beck, Bertram Turner, and Fazil Moradi. I am particularly indebted to my colleague Fazil Moradi for translating my poem “A Jasmine Branch” from Arabic into English. The poem, the epigraph of this book, was widely circulated in different Sudanese media outlets after the division of the Sudan. Moradi, with the assistance of the novelist Goran Baba Ali, conveys the words of this poem in a similar rhythmic style that expresses the depth of what I felt at that historical moment.
Some of the material in this book appeared in articles that were published elsewhere. I thank Signs, Urban Anthropology, Humanity, and the School for Advanced Research Press for allowing the reproduction of these articles.
This book could not have been possible without the long-term support, engagement, and care of many colleagues, friends, and family members. I want to give my special gratitude to Hope Harrison, Miriam Ticktin, Patrick Dodd, Micaela di Leonardo, Caroline Bledsoe, Sandra Gunning, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, May Seikaly, Evelyn Alsultani, Sondra Hale, Omoladi Adunbi, Nesha Haniff, Akbar Virmani, Nasrin Qader, Lynette Jackson, Dario Gaggio, Thomas Abowd, Taghred Elsanhouri, Nadine Naber and Atef Said, Sunita Bose and Damani Partridge, Nadia Osman and Anwar Elhaj, and Claudia and Klaus Wilhelm. Thank you as well to my family members in the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, in particular to my sisters, Neimat and Ihssan, and to my nieces and nephews, who make my life better from afar.
I am grateful to the many individuals who assisted with the collection of data for this study or helped in other organizational and editorial capacities. Here I especially thank Christopher Tounsel and Sarah Juster. I also thank Kim Green-well and Kristin McGuire for their meticulous and careful reading and editing of the manuscript. My ultimate gratitude goes to the reviewers of the manuscript and to the excellent editorial and production teams at Stanford University Press for making this a better book.
The final round of appreciation goes to my Sudanese and Sudanist interlocutors in the United States, the Sudan, and other diaspora locales. Their collaboration made this book possible. I will forever be indebted to the many wonderful people who gave their time to respond to my questions and to those who invited me in and opened their homes and hearts to share their life experiences. The names of many of these individuals appear in the pages that follow; I’d like to note in particular Mahasin Ahmad, Ilham Abdel-Razig, Adlan Abdel-Aziz, Abdel-Fatah Said Arman, and Husham and Dalia Haj Omar.