Violence, legitimacy, and prophecy: Nuer struggles with uncertainty in South Sudan

by Sharon E. Hutchinson and Naomi R. Pendle

Read Article

By Sharon E. Hutchinson and Naomi R. PendleFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12138/fullOpen access

See also the Anthropology News interview with Hutchinson and Pendle,
"Two Anthropologists Look Beyond Diplomacy for a Peace Framework in South Sudan."


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/ae-hutchinson-pendle-adok-600px-300x200.jpg alt: The Nile port of Adok, near the homelands of the South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar. Since the photo was taken in late 2013, Adok has suffered repeated armed attacks as the South Sudanese warring parties attempt to gain control of the river. This has ended a nascent, innovative cattle trade from the western Nuer to the eastern Dinka, limiting the western Nuer's ability to buy food and develop relationships. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.

The Nile port of Adok, near the homelands of the South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar. Since the photo was taken in late 2013, Adok has suffered repeated armed attacks as the South Sudanese warring parties attempt to gain control of the river. This has ended a nascent, innovative cattle trade from the western Nuer to the eastern Dinka, limiting the western Nuer's ability to buy food and develop relationships. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.

) The Nile port of Adok, near the homelands of the South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar. Since the photo was taken in late 2013, Adok has suffered repeated armed attacks as the South Sudanese warring parties attempt to gain control of the river. This has ended a nascent, innovative cattle trade from the western Nuer to the eastern Dinka, limiting the western Nuer's ability to buy food and develop relationships. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.Contemporary South Sudanese Nuer prophets play powerful roles in interpreting the moral limits of lethal violence and weighing the legitimacy claims of rival government leaders. Their activities remain largely invisible to external observers investigating the making and unmaking of fragile states. Focusing on South Sudan’s tumultuous 2005–14 period, we reveal these hidden dynamics through analysis of the two most-powerful living western Nuer prophets. Gatdeang Dit, a male prophet of the divinity Deng, rejects all forms of violent aggression and fosters relations of peace and intermarriage with Dinka neighbors. Nyachol, a female prophet of Maani, inspires thousands of armed Nuer youth to retaliate against Dinka cattle raiders and other external threats while insisting on purification for Nuer–Nuer homicides. Despite their differences, both prophets invoke God’s superior powers to push back against the simplified, secularized, and objectified forms of violence glorified by rival government elites. 


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/07/ae-hutchinson-pendle-watching-cattle-come-home-600px.jpg alt: Watching the cows come home in southern/western Nuer in 2013. In 2015, an estimated 100,000 cattle have been violently raided from these villages. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.

Watching the cows come home in southern/western Nuer in 2013. In 2015, an estimated 100,000 cattle have been violently raided from these villages. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.

) Watching the cows come home in southern/western Nuer in 2013. In 2015, an estimated 100,000 cattle have been violently raided from these villages. Photo by Naomi Pendle, 2013.