Unspeakable Truths: Musical citizenship and transformative justice in South Sudan

Wednesday 18 January 2017, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Dr Angela Impey (SOAS, University of London)

This presentation invites critical scrutiny on the place of music ethnography in current discourses about alternative frameworks for transformative justice in post-conflict and fragile states. It responds to an increasing appeal in transformative justice literature for legal pluralism, and reflects on the challenges and opportunities that traditional justice strategies pose for many of the fundamental assumptions that underlie post-conflict rule-of-law work.

Focusing on South Sudan, a country that has very recently emerged from half a century of civil war with (the previously north) Sudan, but remains deeply destabilized by internecine violence, the paper will consider how Dinka ox-songs function as judicial instruments of narration, listening and understanding, offering discursive spaces for the public disclosure of multiple positions and forms of agency. However, while ox-songs recount individual, clan or community memories within the context of culturally legitimate expressive spaces in Dinka society, they equally reveal potentially incompatible rejoinders to truth and justice across South Sudan’s many ethnicities, thus pointing to the necessity for hybrid frameworks that accommodate localized truth-telling protocols and reparative outcomes.

Angela Impey is Associate Head of Department of Music at SOAS, University of London and Convenor of the MA Music in Development. Her research interests lie in the area of music, social justice and environmental development in southern and north eastern Africa. Prior to joining SOAS in 2006, she worked in the public arts sector in southern Africa and as a social development consultant in the African Horn. She has served on the Board of Directors of numerous community arts projects in Africa and is a Trustee of the UK Charity, Music in Detention.

Location: Sally Baldwin D Block D003