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Ritual Formation of Peaceful Publics: Sacrifice and Syncretism in South Sudan (1991-2005)

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During the most violent days of Sudan’s civil war in the 1990s, a peacemaking initiative known as People-to-People Peacemaking emerged to address ongoing conflict perpetuated by rival Dinka and Nuer rebel movements. The ritual of bull sacrifice, a central feature of the peace process, sealed peace between Nuer and Dinka and formed public alliances between church leaders and kinship authorities represented by elders and chiefs. Joining indigenous and Christian practices in a single ritual space allowed inclusive participation by a variety of actors, many of whom interpreted the ritual quite differently. Utilizing various methods of ritual analysis, this essay suggests that a seemingly religious ritual enabled new forms of political action, previously unavailable through rebel movements’ politics or kinship politics. While rebel leaders often perpetuated political power by manipulating ethnic sentiments, elders and Christian leaders developed forms of politics based on peaceful coexistence and shared identity between Dinka and Nuer.

Affiliations: 1: University of Virginia, Department of Religious Studiespo Box 400126 Charlottesville, Virginia,


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