ESSAYS etc.

Below is a selection of the shorter pieces I have published in the last decade, encompassing essays, fiction, journalism, and reports, amongst other things.

Three exemplary pieces are:

  • In the Dead Letter Office. This is an essay I wrote for Jenny Holzer’s War Paintings exhibition at the Museo Correr in Venice, in 2015, that was published in the catalogue for the exhibition. It is about redaction, the logic of state secrecy, and what happens when a document is painted.

  • The Mission of Forgetting. An essay I published in Chimurenga’s Pan-African gazette, Chronic, in 2016. It is about the UN mission in South Sudan, wilful ignorance, and the vagaries of UN flight timetables.

  • Dreams are not made of Concrete. An essay inspired by Chris Marker, on migration, money, and dreams, in Juba, South Sudan. Published in Fourth Genre in 2013.

2019

On the Shilluk of South Sudan. A long research paper on the situation of the Shilluk in South Sudan, for the Human Security Baseline Assessment project of Small Arms Survey. Forthcoming.

Barbara’s Ethics of Antagonism. A short essay on Barbara Harrell-Bond, and the ethics of her life and work, for Forced Migration Review. Forthcoming.

2018

Displacement, Access, and Conflict in South Sudan: A Longitudinal Perspective. A research report that I wrote on the relationship between conflict and humanitarian aid for the Conflict Sensitivity Resource Facility. 21 May, 2018.

2017

The secret's signature. An essay on redaction, secrecy, and conceptual art. This essay was published in a box-book, composed of my essay, and reproductions of seven of Jenny Holzer’s paintings. The box-book was called Belligerent (New York, Ivory Press).

More Immanence, More Gods. A short essay on immanence, philosophy, and theology, published in The Immanent Frame. October 10, 2017.

Can we see torture? I wrote a short essay on Jenny Holzer’s painting ‘The White House 2002 Green White,’ for the catalogue of Evidentiary Realism: Investigate, Forensic, and Documentary Art, at the Nome Gallery, New York.

How To Do Things With(out) Words. On 25 April 2015, I participated in a panel entitled 'Fact, Fiction and the In-between' at the Art in General What Now? symposium on the Politics of Listening, organized in collaboration with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. A book that collates the discussions which occurred during that symposium has now been published, and my talk, entitled 'How To Do Things With(out) Words', which dealt with redacted documents from the American war on terror, is on pp.48-53.

2016

The Mission of Forgetting. An essay on the UN mission in South Sudan, wilful ignorance, and the vagaries of UN flight timetables. In Chimurenga's excellent magazine, Chronic. 5 April 2016. You can read it here on Chimurenga, or here, with a couple of minor differences to the published version, and larger font sizes.

A State of Disunity: Conflict Dynamics in Unity State, 2013-15, is a 256-page Working Paper that I wrote with Jérôme Tubiana, which looks at the history of the South Sudanese Civil War in Unity State. It includes analysis of the UN's decision to arm the rebels at the outset of the conflict, the manipulation of humanitarian aid, and a blow by blow account of the war, county by county.

Legitimacy, Exclusion, and Power: Taban Deng Gai and the future of the South Sudan peace process, is an Issue Brief that analyses Taban Deng Gai's accession to power as First Vice-President of South Sudan, and its implication for the South Sudanese peace process (HSBA Issue Brief 25, Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 15 December 2016).

2015

In The Dead Letter Office. In Jenny Holzer: War Paintings, edited by Thomas Kellein (Walther König, Koln, September 29 2015). An essay on Jenny Holzer's Redaction Paintings, the logic of state secrecy, and what happens when a document is painted. This essay was published in the catalogue of Jenny Holzer's 'War Paintings' exhibition, which was on display in the Museo Correr, in Venice, from May-November 2015. The catalogue produced in collaboration with Frankfurt's Written Art Foundation. You can buy the catalogue here, or read the essay here. An earlier version of this essay appeared in Media-N's issue on the aesthetics of disappearance, on 7 May 2015. You can read that version here.

Excerpts from a Grammar of Redaction. A version of a part of my 'Grammar of Redaction', which was exhibited at the New Museum's Temporary Center for Translation in Summer 2014, was published in Archival Dissonance: Knowledge Production and Contemporary Art (I.B. Tauris/Ibraaz, May 2015). You can read the excerpt here, or you can read the entire grammar here.

Nobody Talks About The Weather. On the logic of the conflict in South Sudan, the fantasies of international observers, and the centrality of the weather. In Creative Time Reports. 24 March. You can read it here.

2014

Saving the Bad New Things. An essay about Beaumaris, Wales, and the collapse of artisanal labour, which poses the question of why we save things--buildings, ruins, people. In Onsite Review 32: Weak Systems. Fall 2014.

Contested Borders: Continuing Tensions over the Sudan-South Sudan Border, is a 79-page working paper updating my previous working paper, Dividing Lines, which looks at the Sudan-South Sudan border since 2013 (HSBA Working Paper No. 34, Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 13 November 2014).

An excerpt from Redacted Mind, the novel I am currently working on, was published on the New Museum's blog, Six Degrees, on 12 November, 2014. The novel tells the story of four individuals, caught in a web of redacted documents. 

A Grammar of Redaction. As part of the New Museum's Temporary Center for Translation (Summer 2014), I published an essay from an ongoing book project, How To Do Things Without Words, which looks at the logic of redacted documents from the American War on Terror. You can read the long essay here, and download the 'phrasebook' (which contains the documents I refer to in the grammar), here. An excerpt from the grammar was published in the edited volume, Archival Dissonance: Knowledge Production and Contemporary Art (I.B. Tauris/Ibraaz, 2015).

The Lover of the Hand. In response to the AAAW's call to review a book from Ibn al-Nadim's Kitāb al-Fihrist (Book of Lists), I responded with a review of the apparently anonymously authored book, The Lover of the Hand. It's anonymity, as I make clear, is a dangerous deception. Published 25 June, 2014.

In Gurs. An excerpt from a book I am writing with my father about a trip we took to Gurs, the site of a former WWII-era interment camp. The book, entitled On Passage, is a series of meditative exchanges on ideas of passage. 20 April 2014.

2013

Dreams are not made of ConcreteFourth Genre. Volume 15, Issue 2. Fall 2013. A long essay on migration, money, and dreams, in Juba, South Sudan.

Is a building a witness? Onsite Review 30: Ethics and Publics. An essay on the decline of the figure of the witness, and the rise of forensics. Fall 2013.

Dividing lines: Grazing and conflict along the Sudan-South Sudan border, is a 65,000-word working paper that looks at the challenges posed to pastoral and nomadic groups by South Sudan's independence, and the creation of a national frontier running between the two countries (HSBA Working Paper No. 30, Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 18 July 2013).

Unclear Lines: State and Non-State Actors in Abyei. A more academic essay on territory in Abyei, South Sudan, published in Chris Vaughan, Mareike Schomerus, and Lotje de Vries (eds.) 2013. The Borderlands of South Sudan: Authority and Identity in Contemporary and Historical Perspectives. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Under the soil, the peopleOnsite Review 29: Geology. An essay on geology and the claims of memory. May 2013.

Influence: three and a half metaphors. An essay on the difficult of working out just who one's influences are. The Waste Books. 20 April 2013.

2012

Every thing has its own silence. An essay on sound and silence, in Marseille and ParisOnsite Review 28: Sound. Fall 2012. You can read a version of this essay just prior to the final tearsheet here.

Islands of the Imagination. A short letter on islands. Onsite Review 28: Sound. Fall 2012.

On the road to Yei. A reportage on rubbish in Juba, South Sudan. Anthropology News. 15 October 2012.

Death in Field is a meditative short story about stock photography, and the search for unique gestures. Hotel Amerika. Fall Issue. 2012. Vol. 10. No. 2. 

A sketch for the tent of the future. An essay on Qadhafi, nomadism, and the history of the Libyan state. Read it in Onsite Review 27: Rural Urbanism. 5 May 2012. You can read an extract here.

Freethrows and miniatures. An essay on gesture, novelty, and my inability to learn to shoot hoops. 8 May 2012.

No lines, no peace? On the borders of Abyei. Anthropology News. 21 February 2012.

On hunting. A meandering exploration of exile, detectives, and, obviously, hunters. Originally published at The Waste Books. 13 January 2012. Then published as a letter in Onsite Review 27: Rural Urbanism. 5 May 2012. There is also a podcast of me reading the text, available here.

just stay put and keep quiet. An essay on the form of the camp. Originally published at The Waste Books. 13 January 2012. Then published as a letter in Onsite Review 27: Rural Urbanism. 5 May 2012.

2011

Moral Conquest: visiting the Wellcome Collection. A review essay about Mary Douglas' famous phrase, "dirt is matter out of place." On-Site Review 26: Dirt. Fall Issue 2011. 

Burning the future, which looks at the story of a mysteriously inoperative waste dump in Juba, South Sudan, is available in Onsite Review 26: Dirt. Fall Issue 2011. 

Stasis | Noise | Heaviness. An essay on ideas of home and nomadism. 20 December 2011.

Breaking the cycle of violence in SudanGuardian. Original text is here. 3 September 2011.

Creating Facts on the Ground: Conflict Dynamics in Abyei, is a working paper that I wrote in the aftermath of the Sudanese army's invasion of the territory, and chronicles life in the area during the first six months of 2011 (HSBA Working Paper No. 26, Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 7 July 2011).

Khartoum a bloqué les accords de paix à AbyeiLa Croix. The text is here. 17 June 2011.

When the War Began is a story about the difficult of working out when, precisely, something begins. Annalemma Magazine, Online edition. 13 April 2011.

How we train our cops to fear Islam is an investigation into the way American law enforcement are trained in counterterrorism that I carried out and wrote with Meg Stalcup. It was published in the Washington Monthly, and the research was supported by The Nation Institute Investigative Fund. The original is hereThis page fills you in on the acrimony and Senate inquiries that followed the publication of the story. 3 March 2011.

In AbyeiA short reportage from Abyei, Sudan, when it was attacked by government-sponsored militias. 3 March 2011.

Self is a form. A selection of aphorisms (well, two of them). Hotel Amerika. Volume 10. Number. 1. Fall Edition 2011. 

Animal Cities, on urban planning in Juba. Onsite Review 25: Identity. Spring Issue 2011. 

2010

Between the Red Lines, on urban planning in Oakland. Onsite Review 24: Migration. Fall issue 2010. 

Counting a Divided Nation: On the Sudanese Census. A short article I published in Anthropology News in May 2010, looking at some of the contradictions inherent in approaching a political process quantitatively.

The Logic of Soap & A Mobile Home. (two short texts). re:site. Insert in Onsite Review 24: Migration. Fall Issue 2010. Available here in the original, (pp.6-9), or you can read them on this site. Here is the first text, about mining in Sierra Leone, and here is the second, about notions of home.

2009

To read as if for the first time is a long review of Archive Fever, an exhibition that occurred at the International Centre of Photography, New York in 2008. It discusses the Mau-Mau in Kenya, Derridean games in the archive, and more besides. Published 15 September, 2009.

About Lewis is a review of Madawi Al-Rasheed's Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation, written for the sadly now defunct SaudiDebate.com, for which I wrote a bi-monthly column on intellectual affairs in the Gulf. Some of the essays published on this site came out in a book I co-edited with Mark Huband, The Kingdom: Saudi Arabia and the Challenge of the 21st Century (London/New York: Hurst & Co./Columbia University Press, 2009). Some of the other essays I wrote for SaudiDebate.com are available here. Published 2 August, 2009.

Above is a selection of my essays since the beginning of 2009. A selection of my pre-2010 essays can be found on the essays page.