ISBN 9789970258970
Pages 556
Dimensions 244 x 170 mm
Published 2017
Publisher Fountain Publishers, Uganda
Format Paperback

Kings of Disaster

Dualism, Centralism and the Scapegoat King in Southeastern Sudan

by Simon Simonse

This is the long awaited, revised and illustrated edition of Kings of Disaster, the study of the Rainmakers of the Nilotic Sudan that is in many ways a breakthrough in anthropological thinking on African political systems. Taking his inspiration from René Girard’s theory of consensual scapegoating, the author shows that the longstanding distinction of states and stateless societies as two fundamentally different political types does not hold. Centralized and segmentary systems only differ in the relative emphasis put on the victim role of the king as compared with that of enemy. Kings of Disaster thus proposes an uninvolved solution to the vexed problem of regicide.

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"Simon Simonse’s Kings of Disaster is a monumental achievement. I believe it is the most important work on the long-mooted topic of divine kingship yet written, a book that brings the questions debated since the time of Sir James Frazer and Evans-Pritchard to a final,definitive resolution: everything from “did Africans really kill their sacred kings?” to “what is the real nature of the principle of sovereignty that still lies behind the bureaucratic forms of the modern nation-state?” The answers are never quite what we expected. If there is such a thing as progress in anthropology, and not just shifting fashion, then this book must stand as the starting-point for any future discussion on these topics."

David Graeber, London School of Economics

"It is impossible to overstate the achievement of this book. With an exemplary combination of empirical rigour and theoretical daring, Kings of Disaster transforms the landscape of African studies while forcing us to think in new ways about the origins of political power and the state."

Mark Anspach, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

"The ethnographic richness of this volume is astonishing: the author has ransacked archives, combed historical accounts, and carried out superb field-work himself... From this viewpoint, the volume offers a more unified vision of the region and of the problems raised by these kingdoms than the isolated monographs about these peoples written in the wake of Evans-Pritchard."

Jean-Claude Muller, Université de Montréal, in Anthropologie et Sociétés

About the Author

Simon Simonse

Simon Simonse (1943) studied in Leiden and Paris. Kings of Disaster was his doctoral thesis which he defended at the Free University of Amsterdam in 1990. He taught anthropology in D.R. Congo, Uganda, the Netherlands, South Sudan and Indonesia. Since 1993 he has been working as a conflict transformation expert in the Horn and the Great Lakes of Africa.

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