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The "Civilizational Project" and the Southern Sudanese Islamists: Between Assimilation and Exclusion

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Willow Berridge



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Drawing upon interviews and a variety of newspapers and other media associated with the Sudanese Islamic Movement, this article analyses historic developments in its strategy for the Islamization of the now independent region of southern Sudan with particular reference to the experience of members of the movement from that region. It identifies significant parallels between the colonial and Islamist designs for ‘civilizing’ southern Sudanese, arguing that like its colonial predecessor the ‘Civilizational Project’ of Hasan al-Turabi’s ‘Salvation Regime’ alternated between assimilating and excluding them. The post-1989 Islamist regime’s treatment of Islamist southerners before and after the secession of the south in 2011 highlighted the division between these assimilationist and exclusionary trends. Although the movement was largely unsuccessful in recruiting southern members, those who did join were not simply Islamist satellites – like Islamists from the other marginalized regions, they sought to use the Movement to traverse the social divide between centre and periphery, sometimes in a manner that challenged the riverain elites that dominated it. In thus deconstructing the notion that Islamic movements are ideologically and socially homogenous, the article contributes a fresh perspective on the debate about Arabization and Islamization in Sudan as well as center-periphery relations in post-colonial contexts.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Berridge WJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Eastern African Studies

Year: 2021

Volume: 15

Issue: 2

Pages: 214-235

Online publication date: 16/03/2021

Acceptance date: 05/03/2021

Date deposited: 17/03/2021

ISSN (print): 1753-1055

ISSN (electronic): 1753-1063

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/17531055.2021.1902695


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