Accepted paper:

Captured by the Courts? Exploring the predicament of 'urban youth' in South Sudan

Authors:

Rachel Ibreck (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Naomi Pendle (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

Despite conflict, political turbulence and economic crisis, the conduct of young people in urban South Sudan is subject to the resilient public authority of customary and statutory courts. This paper explores the predicament of youth through their encounters with the courts.

Paper long abstract:

Despite conflict, political turbulence and economic crisis, the conduct of young people in urban South Sudan is subject to the resilient public authority of customary and statutory courts. This paper explores the predicament of youth through their encounters with the courts, drawing on observations of court cases in different urban localities, including sites of displacement. It considers the role of urban courts in governing urban youth, and constructing differences and inequalities among them. It identifies the ways in which courts tie young men and women into power relations that dominate in the rural sphere, cementing their dependency on family and kinship relations. It also reflects on the voluntary compliance of young people and the extent to which courts offer them continuity and a connection to the moral landscape of 'home' that contrasts with the uncertainties of the towns. It suggests that courts can become forums in which relationships between younger and older generations, and between 'urban' and 'rural' moralities are negotiated. Chiefs and judges engage in constructing power and authority through defining cultural and moral boundaries, yet as young people wrestle to (re)claim agency over their own sexuality, the courts might either restrain them or provide a platform for them to change the perimeters of permissible debate. By examining both progressive and 'traditional' settlements of cases involving violence, bride wealth, and sexual relationships, we assess the implications of the public authority of courts for South Sudan's urban youth.

panel P201
Contested justice: Legal and judicial pluralism in urban settings and renegotiations of the law from urban to rural domains