The Difficult Birth of a State (MaxPlanckResearch Magazine 3/2014)
The Research Magazine of the Max Planck Society reports on the current research of Katrin Seidel (Department ‘Law & Anthropology’) and Timm Sureau (Department ‘Integration and Conflict‘) who analyse the conflict-ridden birth pangs of state formation in South Sudan
After almost half a century of civil war, in a 2011 referendum the people of South Sudan decided to secede from Sudan. After a conflict that is estimated to have cost the lives of around two million people and which involved brutal excesses against the civilian population that, according to the United Nations, fall into the category of genocide, stability seemed to have finally returned to the region. However, at the end of 2013, old conflicts broke out again and led to a spiral of violence that a series of ceasefires has barely managed – temporarily – to contain. Some observers already consider South Sudan a failed state. This judgment, however, is based on a concept of ‘state’ associated with a development paradigm that is fundamentally criticized by Katrin Seidel and Timm Sureau. In this article, Seidel and Sureau emphasize that state formation in South Sudan is a complex and tenuous process that cannot be grasped by conventional models of state formation and of the state more generally.