“He Cannot Marry Her”: Excluding The Living And Including The Dead In South Sudanese Citizenship In Sudan

Naomi Pendle, Machar Diu Gatket

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Global refugee regimes mean that South Sudanese refugees, in refugee camps in Sudan, can be considered as living on the political margins of the world, and eff ectively denied citizenship. However, South Sudanese in these camps contest this marginalization. They do this, not by simply claiming citizenship of a state, but by challenging the very meaning of citizenship and connecting citizenship to diff erent ideas of political collectivity. This article specifi cally considers how chiefs’ courts’ reforms to marriage laws reshaped the political collective and ideas of citizenship during a period of war, exile, and fl uid elite politics among South Sudanese in a refugee camp in Sudan. Marriage is particularly potent in its infl uence on identities and citizenship through its shaping of the legality of reproduction and, therefore, its remaking of political communities at the time and in the future. This article argues that chiefs’ courts mediated and contested ideas of citizenship and re-emphasized the political communities of kinship, despite intra-kin divisions, of the Nuer or sub-divisions of the Nuer, making citizenship trans-territory and not bounded by the nation state. The article also illustrates the courts’ role in reshaping social obligations towards, and therefore citizenship of, the dead. The article is based on qualitative interviews and observations of Nuer chiefs’ courts in a refugee camp in 2017, 2018, and 2020.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-102
Number of pages18
JournalDiaspora: a Journal of Transnational Studies
Issue number1
Early online date3 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022


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