Death Rites and Imperial Formations in Sudan, 1865-1935

Katie J Hickerson, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation is a cultural and political history of death in Sudan between 1865 and 1935. While death in Sudan has long been the source of ethnographic observations dating from the foundations of the discipline of anthropology, there has not been a historical study of the ways that death informed practices of colonial rule and Sudanese political struggles. This study demonstrates how death rites are central to understanding political life and imperial projects in Sudan by considering tombs and commemorations, battlefield photographs, and anthropological accounts of funerary rites as sources to illuminate the changing nature of power, authority, and colonialism in Sudan. It considers three periods of dramatic change and the violent transitions between them: the Turkiyya (the era of Ottoman and Egyptian colonialism), the rise and fall of the Mahdiyya (a revivalist Islamic state), and the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (the imposition of dual British-Egyptian imperial rule). Using death as a category of analysis reveals the enduring nature of the nineteenth-century zeriba system—the methodical plunder and slaving by which southern societies were incorporated into the Turco-Egyptian order—in shaping the politics of subsequent eras in Sudan. It concludes that struggles for political life in the shadow of death connected the histories of Sudanese people throughout the Nile Valley, and also entwined that history with the larger imperial legacies of Egypt and Great Britain.

Subject Area

African history|Middle Eastern history|History

Recommended Citation

Hickerson, Katie J, "Death Rites and Imperial Formations in Sudan, 1865-1935" (2017). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI10615702.