I have uploaded a few of my shorter essays over at Medium, a website that has made crisp, clear presentation of text on the internet a breeze. You can read some of my recent work here.
I have some brief notes on photography criticism up here, on the excellent anthropology blog Somatosphere, as part of their regular column, 'Top of the Heap.'
I have a piece out with Small Arms Survey on the conflict in Unity State, South Sudan. You can read it here.
In summer 2013, I took a trip with Tony Craze, my father and a fellow writer, to Gurs, the site of a former internment camp near Pau, France.
We are now writing a book about the trip, On Passage, which is composed of a series of meditations on passage: for each stage of the trip, we both write about a moment of our journey, and then reply to the other's text. It is a conversation in fragments. Slowly, we are building up a patchwork of intersecting meditations on the theme of passage. Below the fold is an excerpt from one of my more recent entries. You can read an earlier excerpt here.
The Borderlands of South Sudan: Authority and Identity in Contemporary and Historical Perspectives is now out with Palgrave MacMillan. It was masterfully edited by Christopher Vaughan, Mareike Schomerus, and Lotje de Vries.
I wrote chapter three, 'Unclear Lines: State and Non-State Actors in Abyei.' You can read an earlier draft of this chapter here.
The concluding paragraph of the essay follows:
"In Abyei, border talk became a frame in which claims about the sovereignty and area of the territory were made visible. None of the actors, however, actually inhabited the frame. The Misseriya used the ABC and PCA to make a claim to Abyei that attempted to secure for themselves what are actually secondary rights to the territory; the NCP used border talk as a mask, to perpetuate a permanent precarity that allowed them to extract as much as they could from the territory. This is not to say, of course, that there are no rebound effects: as the Misseriya took up the maximal language of the state, they found their secondary claims (and the possibility of coexistence with the Ngok Dinka) eroded; by taking up the language of the state, they found their practical possibilities for action reduced to a binary between absolute ownership and absolute dispossession. The Sudanese state, on the other hand, continues to not require the demarcation of its own borders, and instead uses the discourse of state power as part of an apparatus that also sets up a structure of illegality: actors that the state can use, while disavowing their actions. Nomads acting like states. States acting like nomads."
You can order your copy of the book here
Small Arms Survey also published an article of mine on the 14-Mile Area between Northern Bahr el Ghazal and East Darfur. You can read it here.
Small Arms Survey also just published my article on the Safe Demilitarized Border Zone between Sudan and South Sudan. You can read it here. Short version: It's not safe, not demilitarized, and not even a zone.
Small Arms Survey just published my latest piece on the situation in Abyei. You can read it here.
I have an essay in the new issue of Onsite Review. It is about witnessing, forensics, and the status of speech today. You can read it in Onsite, get an online subscription to the magazine, or read a version of the essay below the fold.
In the spring of 1960, Mossad was in Buenos Aires planning the abduction of Adolf Eichmann, when it heard that Josef Mengele was in town. The agents running the operation didn't want to jeopardise it by taking on another target: Eichmann was captured and Mengele slipped away; his remains were exhumed in 1985. In Mengele's Skull: The Advent of a Forensic Aesthetics, Eyal Weizman and Thomas Keenan claim that Eichmann's capture and subsequent trial inaugurates the 'era of the witness', in which giving testimony against the excesses of state power becomes a central feature of political life. In contrast, the analysis of Mengele's skull, carried out in the 1980s, heralds the rise of a political emphasis on material objects and their forenisc analysis. As the figure of the witness loses authority in the 21st century, it is forensics—in architecture as much as in archaeology—that will increasingly take centre stage, legally and politically. It is not man that will testify, but his ruins.
In summer 2013, I took a trip with Tony Craze, my father and a fellow-writer, to Gurs, the site of a former internment camp near Pau, France. We are now writing a book about the trip, On Passage, which is composed of a series of meditations on passage: for each stage of the trip, we both write about a moment of our journey, and then reply to the other's text. It is a conversation in fragments. Slowly, we are building up a patchwork of intersecting meditations on the theme of passage. Below is an excerpt from one of my more recent entries:
We have been writing about memories, condensed in objects, and yet when I think of train stations, what comes to mind are not objects, but their absence.
My life is full of objects. These cumbersome things are often generated by the fact I have objectives, goals to set out towards, things to be achieved, and places to go.
The great joy of journeys is that they generate time in which my objective is near (it’s achievable), but momentarily out of my reach. I can’t yet board the train. I can’t yet get on with it.
This is the time for coffee in Quick, the molten brown liquor threatening to melt the plastic cup and cascade in an ambulance-journey of burns onto my hands.
I have another article out with Small Arms Survey, this time on the results of the referendum in Abyei.
Haider's encounter with the Dinka man reminds me of a photograph by Robert Capa, titled Near Namdinh. It is 1954. We are in Indochina, and it is war. In the background of the photograph, a French military convoy roars along a narrow road amid rice paddies, urgently trying to get through to Doia Tan. Even when frozen in a photograph, the convoy looks impatient. It certainly has a sense of time: orders to be received, places to get to, missions to be accomplished, battles to be won, and lovers to return to in France. In the foreground of the photograph, a man is plowing a field. His time is dictated by the seasonal rains, the demands of the rice, and his absorption in the rhythm of his plow; the way the strokes seem to flow so easily, if only he would allow the tool's weight to dictate the movements of his body.
Between the French convoy and the farmer, there is certainly interaction. Farms will be burned, and the farmer may soon join attacks on other convoys. The French and the Vietnamese are fighting for the same land. Yet between them, there is no conversation, no sense of values that might be commensurable. It is not just the absence of a shared language, but also the absence of shared sense of time in which an encounter might unfold. The French fought, and asked – why don't they play by our rules? Like all games, war has a beginning, and an end, and to play the game, one must agree on the rules--the strategic objectives, the play of forces--and on the sense of time inherent in the game. There was no start to this war, which knows both rice and commands, even if, for the French, there will definitely be an end.
Today, where there was once empire, there is now the UN. In an essay he wrote in 1994, the novelist Amitav Ghosh noted that while the UN represents the totality of the world's nation-states, and seeks to recreate the image of its membership wherever it goes, in the contemporary world, sovereignty resides precisely where the peace-keepers do not.
Sudan is full of peace-keepers.