John Garang's ghost: Telling transnational stories of a past and possible 'New Sudan'
Danielle Del Vicario
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the sites, conventions and voices of written biographical and conspiratorial stories produced since the death of South Sudanese liberation leader John Garang, focusing on two intersectional themes central to Garang's own life: transnationalism and education.
Paper long abstract:
On 30 July 2005, a Ugandan presidential helicopter carrying John Garang, then newly appointed First Vice President of Sudan and leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army which had waged a twenty-two-year war against the Sudanese government, crashed in suspicious circumstances on the Sudanese-Ugandan border. This paper explores the sites, conventions and voices of written biographical and conspiratorial stories since produced about Garang, from children's books and political treatises to internet threads and self-published investigative accounts. In setting, authorship and transmission, these stories claim relevance through two intersectional themes central to Garang's own life: transnationalism and education. For South Sudanese scattered by the war, Garang's global connections offer a didactic lens through which to naturalize the diasporic experience, comment on contemporary conflict and (re)tell the story of South Sudanese liberation. Since 2013, South Sudan has faced chronic unrest and Garang frequently figures as the exemplary educated peacemaker. His idea of the 'New Sudan', previously a non-secessionist politics based on reform in a united Sudan, is being reconstituted to call for peace, development and cooperation in the face of South Sudan's post-independence conflicts. These stories are both nostalgic and political, and Garang's legacy has been mobilized on all sides of the current political divide. Indeed, these stories form their own literary corpus, one which converses across borders and media to participate in a social order characterized, this paper argues, not only by an absence of official history but by profound information uncertainty.
Storytelling and social order in Africa