Call for Papers

Call for Papers

The ethnographic archive: history, anthropology and the Sudan Archive Durham

26-28 September 2016, Palace Green Library, Durham University

We invite paper proposals from postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers working on the Sudans or wider eastern and central Africa for this interdisciplinary conference at Durham University, organised by current postgraduate students. The key discussant will be Professor Sharon Hutchinson, whose seminal anthropological study Nuer Dilemmas famously revisited the work of E. E. Evans-Pritchard on the Nuer of South Sudan. We particularly invite papers which speak to the interplay of anthropology and history, including (but not limited to):

  • reflections on the nature and use of earlier works of professional or amateur ethnography and their place both in the documentary archive and in the oral history, political discourse and self-representation of their subject or author communities;
  • the use of anthropological evidence, theory or methods by historians;
  • the use of historical evidence, context and methods by anthropologists;
  • new historical and anthropological approaches to the material, visual and bureaucratic cultures of archive and museum collections;
  • the present-day politics, pragmatics and purpose of historical and anthropological research in eastern and central Africa and the Sudans.

Accepted paper presenters will be required to submit draft papers in advance, on which they will receive one-to-one feedback during the conference from senior discussants, including Dr Douglas Johnson, leading historian of South Sudan, and other historians and anthropologists. It is understood that paper drafts will reflect varying stages of research; the aim will be to provide constructive feedback on research methods and the potential development of papers into thesis chapters and/or publications. The conference will also include a dedicated session with Sharon Hutchinson and other discussants on research methods, particularly the nature and present challenges of ethnographic and historical fieldwork, and a session on the research potential of the collections in the Sudan Archive and other relevant archives. The conference will be held at the Palace Green Library, home of the Sudan Archive, which is a major international resource for scholarship on Sudan, South Sudan and wider northeast Africa. Participants will visit the Archive itself to look at material objects in the collection, and to provide an induction for those interested in exploring recently donated material such as the Justice Africa human rights papers, and the papers of Ian Cunnison, a renowned anthropologist. 

The number of papers to be presented will be limited; if you would like to apply to present a paper please send a 200-word abstract to by 31st May 2016. Confirmation of acceptance will be issued by 10th June. If you would like to participate in the conference without presenting a paper, please email a short expression of interest explaining why the conference would be beneficial to your research to by 31 July. Full papers should be submitted by 5 September to allow discussants time to read them.

There is no conference fee; accommodation in Hatfield College can be booked on registration for a cost of £100 for two nights. Additional funding is limited but paper presenters whose own institution is unable to provide them with funding may apply for limited assistance with travel and accommodation costs: please include a short explanation of the reason for applying when you submit your abstract to the address above.

Presenters should also indicate upon submission if they wish to apply for the Sudan Archive Visiting Library Fellowship. This is a two-month residential fellowship (covering travel, college accommodation and meals) to support a sustained period of research in the Sudan Archive’s collections; the period of residence to occur in the Easter term of 2017. The winner of the fellowship will be selected on the strength of the paper submitted in advance of the conference, and on the relevance of the topic to the Archive’s collections.

For further information, please write to the conference organisers at