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From Sudan to Suomi

Sudanese Christians in Northern Finland

Forschungsarbeit 2010 134 Seiten

Ethnologie / Volkskunde















This research was funded by a grant from the Finnish Lutheran Church Research Institute (2009) and the initial research was funded by a grant from the Kaarle Hjalmar Lehtinen Fund (2008) and I acknowledge both sources.

Parts of this book have previously been published in or draw upon my articles in History Today, Implicit Religion, the Journal for Interdisciplinary Research on Religion and Science, the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Religion and Education and I am thankful to the editors and peer-reviewers .



Sudan and Suomi (‘Finland’ in Finnish) are very different nations. Various assessments have rated Finland the best country in the world in which to live while Sudan struggles, mired in poverty and intermittent civil war. Finland is the world’s most northerly nation state while Sudan lies close to equator. But, despite the many differences, Finland began to accept Southern Sudanese – mostly Christian – refugees in 2001 and they have since established a nationwide Anglican community and various other churches. There is a significantly sized Southern Sudanese community in Oulu, in the north of the country.

From Sudan to Suomi is an ethnographic account of the Southern Sudanese Christian churches in Oulu and the first detailed ethnographic account of any Southern Sudanese community in Finland. Through participant observation, it attempts to gain a deeper understanding of Southern Sudanese religiosity and culture and the way in which Southern Sudanese life has developed in its specifically Finnish cultural context. In doing so, From Sudan to Suomi also aims to help those who work with Sudanese refugees better understand the dynamics and nuances of Southern Sudanese Diaspora culture.


It is a Sunday in January; the depths of Finnish winter. Before leaving my little wooden house in an Oulu suburb, I check the temperature on the thermometer that seems to be screwed to the front of so many Finnish houses. As an Englishman used to winters where a cold day is just above zero, I’ve quickly had to learn that you dress properly for winter in northern Finland and particularly this evening when it looks like it’s about minus 25. It’s been below minus 30 this winter, so I count myself lucky.

Thoroughly wrapped-up, I crunch my way along a snow-covered path by a rock-hard stream with houses either side of me. Eventually I reach a forest with snow frozen onto the trees. I make my way through this forest and in front of me is the Oulu district of Kaukovainio. It is, in essence, a series of blocks of flats surrounding a row of shops which include two small pubs. Many suburbs in Oulu – including Höyhtyä, from which I’ve just walked – are almost carbon copies of this. The only difference is that Kaukovainio is one of the poorest areas in Oulu. Many of the flats are cheap and city owned. When I later come here in the summer, there are gangs of teenagers hanging about and drinking. And there are groups of middle-aged men doing the same; one of them just lying unconscious in the street. Finnish friends of mine describe Kaukovainio variously as a ‘rough’ or ‘poor’ area of the city. ‘There are lots of drunks, unemployed people and immigrants,’ one remarked. I’ve heard stories of people being victims of attempted muggings there and the newsagent being robbed at knife-point by a drug addict. Despite the temperature, the two pubs are clearly busy. Inebriated, unkempt-looking people sway outside, smoking.

Across the road from the shops is a small, brick-built chapel. And inside are people who – until about eight years ago – had never even seen snow, let alone been forced to wrap-up in special ‘outdoor clothes.’ Kaukovainio is where a fair number of the 170 or so adult Sudanese refugees in Oulu have been housed, generally in blocks of flats. The first Sudanese refugees came to Finland in 2001; most of them fleeing the fighting in southern Sudan; at the time of writing soon to be an independent state. But that is the future. It is now January 2010 and the southern Sudanese refugees have established a series of communities in various Finnish cities. The Sudanese Anglicans have their own priest, the Rev’d Amos Manga – ordained in a joint ceremony between the Anglican and Finnish Lutheran Churches in June 2007. And he leads the small congregation at the Kaukovainio chapel who welcome me enthusiastically whenever I go there. Another Sudanese congregation meet in the city centre, near the cathedral. Many of them live in Tuira, another ‘poor’ area of the city.

Finland and Refugees

The aim of this short book is to present ethnographic, participant observation research on the Sudanese Christians in Oulu. The research was conducted in a systematic way between 2009 and 2010 but will draw upon less structured encounters with the Southern Sudanese in Finland going back to 2003. As of 2008, there are just under 1100 recognised Sudanese refugees in Finland, not including young children. The first Sudanese refugees – 300 taken as Finland’s UN quota – arrived in Finland October 2001. They were dispersed all over the country and communities have now established themselves not only in Oulu but Kokkola, Kuopio, Vantaa, Vaasa and Kouvala.

Finland is relatively new to immigration and a brief history of Finland’s Cold War permits us to understand why this is the case. Until the end of the Cold War, Finland is generally understood to have had a kind of ambiguous relationship somewhere in between the Soviet Union and the West. In 1939, the Soviet Union demanded that Finland give-up parts of Lapland and Karelia. When it refused, the Soviets invaded and – in what became known as the ‘Winter War’ – the massively outnumbered Finns held out against Soviet forces for a surprisingly long time. They ultimately lost, evacuated ten percent of their population but then – in the Continuation War (1941 -1944) – took the land back before losing it again, a loss which left them having to pay the Soviet Union substantial war reparations. Finland’s Post-War policy became one of appeasement to the Soviet Union. The Paasikivi-Kekkonen line, named after the two successive presidents that pursued it, involved co-operating with their giant neighbour while also co-operating with the West. Finnish historical narratives during the period tended to stress that Finland was ‘neither eastern nor Western’ or ‘partially eastern’ or, in Kekkonen’s words, ‘we see ourselves as physicians’ – a country able to stand objectively outside historical conflicts and offer sage advice to both sides. But it was under the presidency of Urho Kekkonen (1956 – 1981) of the Agrarian League (later the Centre Party) that the ‘official history’ began to change. Independence from Russia in 1917 had been a gift from Lenin, Finland had provoked the Winter War with its nationalist bellicosity before the war, Russia was an historical friend of the Finns . . . the Soviets must not be upset and if they like Kekkonen he must stay in power or the country will lose its independence. In what was termed ‘Finlandization’ (by West German academics, fearing their own country would become ‘like Finland’), Finland was perceived to be so co-operative with the Soviets as to no longer really be independent and, indeed, Finnish historian Seppo Hentilä, of Helsinki University, stressed in 2008 that in an international crisis, Finland would have been in the Soviet sphere of influence and that the whole era is a ‘wound in Finland that is yet to heal’.[1] Unlike the rest of this sphere, Finland remained a multiparty democracy but by the 1970s, Kekkonen’s power was so great, his control of the media and the parliament so tight and censorship so endemic that the reality of Finland’s ‘democracy’ came into question in the West. National policy was, in many cases, okayed by Moscow before being put into action. Leonid Brehznev quipped in 1973, ‘Finland is in the back pocket of the Soviet Union.’[2]

Accordingly, levels of immigration to Finland until the 1990s were very low by European standards. Only in the early 1990s did Finland begin accepting refugees in any significant numbers – from Vietnam, Chile and then from Somalia. Thus, the Sudanese were amongst the first groups of non-European refugees to be accepted into Finland and, to avoid crowding them all into the larger cities in the south, many were sent north; some even to relatively small country towns such as Kokkola, about two and half hours south of Oulu. It was here – in 2003 when I first visited Finland – that I first met a Sudanese refugee.

A Brief History of Sudan

But what were they fleeing from? A brief history of Sudan would provide us with much needed context.

By around the eighth century BC, a settled agricultural culture based around cattle herding had developed in much of Sudan. Adjacent as it was to Egypt, parts of northern Sudan were controlled by the Egyptians during the period of the Pharaohs. When Egyptian civilisation waned, around 1000 BC, a series of kingdoms rose up in northern Sudan and, in some cases, conquered parts of Egypt. By the 6th century AD, a number of these northern Sudanese kingdoms had adopted Christianity. Islam came to northern Sudan in 640s and by around the tenth century all of the Sudanese kingdoms had fallen to Islam, establishing a series of sultanates. Southern Sudan remained tribal, animist and pastoralist.

Between 1820 and 1821, forces sent by the Ottoman Empire, which by then already controlled Egypt, conquered and unified the north of Sudan into one sultanate. The vassal-state, Egypt, claimed the whole of Sudan though in reality it had little control of the south which was regularly raided for slaves by forces from the north. It imposed heavy taxes on the Sudanese, which were resented by the population. By the 1870s, the Egyptian government was in debt to European powers. It increasingly appointed European – and particularly British – officials to run its financial and other affairs. In 1874, Britain’s General Charles Gordon (1833 – 1885) was appointed governor of Southern Sudan. He ruthlessly suppressed the slave trade – which had been vital to the economy in the north – executing Muslim slave-traders who defied him. By the time he was appointed the Governor General of Sudan, in 1877, he had decimated the slave trade in the south. In 1881, Gordon’s policies provoked what became known as the Anglo-Sudanese War. In the 1870s, a Muslim radical cleric known as Mohammed Ahmad (1844 – 1885) began preaching conservative Islamic renewal and liberation from Sudan’s colonisers. He attracted a huge following and soon – calling himself the Mahdi (‘Chosen one’) – the self-proclaimed Islamic Messiah led an armed struggle – a Jihad - against the colonial government which he did not accept was truly Muslim. The Mahdi effectively took over northern Sudan and when General Gordon took British forces to Sudan to work out the best way for Egypt to withdraw, in 1885, he was killed and his forces vanquished. The Mahdi died shortly afterwards and was succeeded by a follower who continued his theocracy. In 1899, under Lord Kitchener (1850 – 1916), the British (and Egyptians) once again took control of northern Sudan. Between 1892 and 1910, Belgium controlled much of Southern Sudan before it was turned over to the British Empire. In 1898, the British also divided Sudan, preventing northerners (mainly Arabs or Arabized blacks) from going to the south and southerners (mainly black and animist) from going north. It was during this colonial period, beginning in around 1911, that Christianity – and especially Catholicism and Anglicanism – began to reach parts of Southern Sudan, through education-focussed missions. As a consequence, educated people in the south used English as a lingua franca.

The British left Sudan in 1953, granting it independence in 1956. However, they left its new legislature and government dominated by Arabic-speakers from the north. General Ibrahim Abboud (1900 – 1983) dismissed the result of the first post-independence election and took over the country in a military coup. He swiftly began a policy of Islamisizing and Arabizing the south. All principle official posts in southern Sudan were staffed by northerners. Most of the police were northerners as well. In 1954, an International Commission had recommended that the Missionary Schools – which were the only schools in the south – change their language of instruction from English to Arabic. Soon after independence, the schools were nationalised and private schools in the south banned. The day of rest was changed to Friday nationwide, Islamic missions were set up in the south, Christian activity (other than church prayer) was banned in 1961 and in 1964 all Christian missionaries were expelled leaving ‘an immature Sudanese church.’ Southern resentment quickly led to a civil war which lasted until 1972.[3]

In 1969 Colonel Jaafar Nimeiri (1930 – 2009) assumed power in another coup and held it for 16 years, surviving several coup attempts. Most importantly, by signing the 1972 Addis Ababa Agreement, he granted the southern provinces some autonomy, quelling the civil war which had lasted for more than a decade. Then in 1983, the civil war flared-up again. Nimeiri led a more fundamentalist Muslim government and imposed Islamic Law over the whole of Sudan. Southern Sudanese fled north and fled abroad. Army commander John Garang (1945 – 2005) deserted the government and founded the Sudanese Liberation Army which quickly took control of much of the south. Nimeiri was deposed in 1985 and replaced first by a Transitional Military Council, then, after elections the next year, Sadiq al-Mahdi (b.1936) became Prime Minister. In July 1989 power was seized by the current president, Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir; however, Hassan al-Turabi, fundamentalist leader of the National Islamic Front (NIF), was widely seen as the man with the real power. A Peace Treaty was finally negotiated in 2005 and the south was given autonomy from the north. It is, however, in the wake of this war that most of the Sudanese refugees in Finland have been granted asylum in the country.[4]

Christian Life in Sudan

The focus of this analysis is the religiosity of Southern Sudanese and, therefore, it is important to understand the history of Christianity in Sudan. Currently, around half of those in Southern Sudan describe themselves as ‘Christian.’ The majority are either Catholic (the largest group) or Anglican, though there are also many other smaller Protestant churches. The remainder are animist. However, it has been widely noted that many of these Christians mix their Christianity with many pre-Christian beliefs and practices and, accordingly, some estimates of the number of Christians are far lower.[5] There is also a significant Christian community in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, many of them refugees from fighting in the south. But the nature of Southern Sudanese Christianity, and the mixing involved, means it is difficult to obtain clear statistics by denomination.

Roman Catholic missionaries, many from Austria and Italy, began work in northern Sudan in 1842. In 1846 a Vicariate Apostolic of Central Africa was created, and Roman Catholic missionaries worked to establish the Church in Khartoum and up the Nile. Missionary work came to an end during the Mahdist uprising of 1881, but began again when an Anglo-Egyptian government was established in 1899. No direct evangelization was allowed in the mainly Muslim North, but in the South the Verona Fathers returned and were joined by the American Presbyterian Mission as well as Anglican missions. All education in the South was in the hands of these missionaries and, accordingly, educated southerners were wont to have contact with Christianity. In 1946 government policy changed: the South was to be integrated with the Muslim North in preparation for independence in 1956. In 1957 Church schools were nationalized, and the remaining missionaries expelled in 1964. Although the churches were deprived of clergy outside the main towns, Church membership increased as Southerners found a Christian identity. Southern Sudan has developed many evangelical and Charismatic churches, termed ‘African churches’ by my informants, and many of these organisations actually operate in Sudanese refugee camps.[6]

The status of Christians in Islamist Sudan has been very precarious. Both the Constitution of 1998 and the draft of a new constitution to replace it provide for freedom of religion. In practice the government has continued to place many restrictions on non-Muslims, non-Arab Muslims, and Muslims from tribes not affiliated with the ruling party. The government that came to power through a coup in 1989 aimed for the complete Islamisization of Sudan. Under the proposed constitution, a distinction was made between the north and the south. The new constitution states that legislation having effect only in the north ‘shall have as its source Sharia and the consensus of the people.’ Legislation in the south of shall have as its source "popular consensus, the values and the customs of the people of Sudan, including their traditions and religious beliefs." Nevertheless, according to US Government[7] report, the government has continued to discriminate against non-Muslims, non-Arab Muslims, and those Muslims not from tribes or sects affiliated with the ruling party, particularly in terms of government job allocations. Non-Muslims were also discriminated against in getting building permits for houses of worship. ‘There were reports that security forces harassed and at times threatened use of violence against persons on the basis of religious beliefs and activities, although it was sometimes unclear whether they were harassed for religious or political reasons,’ declared the report. The report further noted that:

‘The country has an area of 967,500 square miles, and its population is an estimated 40 million. The country is religiously mixed, although Muslims have dominated national government institutions since independence in 1956. Accurate figures are unavailable due to poor census data and decades of civil war, but estimates put the Muslim population at approximately 65 percent, including numerous Arab and non-Arab groups; Christians at approximately 10 percent; and traditionalists at 25 percent. Muslims predominate in the north, but there are sizable Christian communities in northern cities, principally in

areas where there are large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs).’[8]

It has been estimated that over the last 40 years, more than 4 million southerners have fled to the north to escape the war. As we have noted, many in the south are Christian but also animist and these animists are increasingly becoming Christian while continuing to adhere to elements of animist belief, such as belief in witchcraft.

The Islamic government has also heavily interfered with schooling which has driven down the influence of English. Private schools can choose their own teachers, but all courses and curriculum, including those of private Christian schools must follow the State-ordered model. State schools may excuse non-Muslims from classes on Islam without providing those students a Christian teacher for that time. Muslim teachers go to private Christian schools to teach Islam to students there. The Government forbids the use of English as a language of instruction in state schools, although it allows the teaching of English as a foreign language. English can, however, be

used at Juba University and will obviously be used throughout the state when it is fully independent. But Arab dominance has meant that the level of English has declined since Independence, being replaced by Arabic as the lingua franca throughout the south. However, this is slightly complicated by the fact – during the enforcement of the Addis Ababa Agreement – many schools in Southern Sudan reverted to teaching in English and there was relative peace. This means that those of school age between 1972 and 1983 are more likely to be educated and, depending on the school, more likely to know English.

There are, in effect, heavy restrictions on freedom of worship. Religious groups, like all other organizations, are supposed to be registered to be recognized or to assemble legally. While Mosque planning applications are granted it is far more complex to get permission to build a church. The last formal permit for a Christian church was reportedly issued around 1975. Evangelistic Christian groups have to register with the government but this is not necessary for Muslim groups. The refugee stories of the Sudanese are not the focus of this book but it might be worth looking at one, if only to bring an element of realism to the situation. Those who were prepared to talk about their flight from Sudan recalled fairly harrowing experiences but, even so, quite a few wanted to return if possible. A male informant, for example, confided, once I’d known him quite a while, that:

‘The Islamic Government occupied the south in 1983. And so people fled to Uganda and Kenya and also to the north. We were told that we had to become Muslim but we refused. They began to destroy the churches. For example, they destroyed the church at Khartoum Airport. There was heavy fighting and I fled to the north, to Khartoum. There I was involved in Christian activity. We set up a church which met under a shelter and we tried to show films about Christianity using a generator for electricity. And in was in the late 1980s that I went to theological college in Khartoum. In 2001, I remember, there were 7 of us men running this church and we were all arrested by authorities, who came saying they had to check our generator. We were taken to prison and tortured for fourteen days. I don’t know what happened to the other men but I was told they would stop torturing me if agreed that I would never again lead a religious service. So, of course, I agreed and they released me. So that day I went home and the congregation were there waiting and there was kind of celebration part and we prayed. But we didn’t know that we were being followed by the security police. They came at 11pm and said I had to go with them. ‘There were people at your house,’ they said. ‘You promised not to organise anything. I said, ‘I didn’t. They were there to welcome me because I’d been away for a long time.’ They beat me up, warned me again and said I had to report to the police station twice a week. So I decided we had to escape. We took a lorry to Egypt – this was February 2002 – but we had no right to stay there. So we went to the Red Cross Refugee Camp and they sent us to Finland.’

He added that, ‘I think many of the Sudanese have similar cases, though it’s more likely to be political than religious.’ These political cases included involvement in either the Sudanese Liberation Movement (a political party) or the Sudanese Liberation Army. In some cases, the refugees were even women fleeing forced marriages.

Recent Research on the Southern Sudanese Diaspora

This book aims to make an original contribution to the field by studying the Sudanese in Finland and focussing specifically on their religious beliefs and practice. Neither has been done before. In the last ten years, an increasing number of research articles have been published looking at various dimensions of the Sudanese Diaspora. Häusermann Fábos (2002) has looked at how Southern Sudanese refugees maintain their identity in Egypt. She finds that the Sudan which the refugees have fled is idealised on the one hand and its negative characteristics are, on the other, transformed into the ‘New Sudan.’ Their activities included Sudanese cultural festivals which implicitly ‘reify’ the idea of ‘Sudaneseness’ but she finds that different Sudanese communities conceive of this in very different ways, with Muslim Arabs assuming that being Muslim and Arab is central to being Sudanese.

There have been a number of different research projects on the Southern Sudanese in the USA. Jon Holtzman (2007) has documented the lives of southern Sudanese refugees in Minnesota, specifically those from the Nuer tribe. In particular, he has discussed the way in which the refugees’ new cultural and physical setting problematises traditional Sudanese gender roles. With men having to perform traditionally female tasks and vice versa. For example, he notes, in Sudan it is the female’s role to deal with issues relating to food but in Minnesota the couple may find themselves having to go to the supermarket together. Equally, women stepping into the world of work can cause tensions in a traditional Sudanese marriage. Diana Shandy (2002) has explored Nuer religiosity in the USA. She has found that Sudanese ‘Christian’ status plays an important role in permitting the Sudanese to integrate into the predominantly Christian society, allows them to create networks with American Christians and assists local southern Sudanese unity as it is the only point of recognised commonality the southern Sudanese have, apart from – in most cases – the ability to speak Arabic as a lingua franca. Their Christianity also means that local Christian institutions helpfully and deliberately assist their integration into mainstream American society. Also Stanislava Benesova (2005) has conducted research with southern Sudanese refugees in Florida and found that they have had similar experiences to those reported in Shandy’s research. Li (2008, Ch. 4) has looked at how Sudanese immigrants in New York State deal with schooling system in a country with a supposed racial hierarchy which renders the Sudanese ‘the faces at the bottom of well.’ Also, Abusharaf (2002) provides a useful overview of the background to the Southern Sudanese Diaspora in the USA and has examined the problems associated with living ‘away from home’ (‘ghorba’).

There remains relatively little published research on the Southern Sudanese Diaspora in Western Europe. Most notably, Cordula Weißköppel (2009) has examined the Sudanese in Berlin in terms of their ‘multi-sitedness’ and provides some very interesting ethnographic details on maintaining trans-national relationships as well as violence against the southern Sudanese and how this has modelled their sense of belonging in Germany. In this regard, she has also examined a Sudanese snack bar in Berlin and how this reflects aspects of Sudanese culture (Weißköppel 2004). With regard to Australia, Lejukole (2009) has looked at the issues – commonly explored by Diaspora scholars – of how exile, gender roles and so forth have impacted the southern Sudanese refugees accepted into the country. Clearly, the development of Southern Sudanese religiosity in the Diaspora environment has not been looked at in great detail and the current research aims to address this accordingly.

In terms of Finland, I am aware of no in-depth research on the Sudanese. All I have been able to find is undergraduate dissertations written at a few Finnish polytechnics (termed ‘Universities of Applied Science’) by undergraduates training to be deacons in the Finnish Lutheran Church. It appears to now be the policy of these polytechnics to publish these dissertations on the internet. So, for example, in a joint Finnish-language dissertation called ‘Sudanese Christians in the Kuopio Kallavesi Parish,’ Auli Koponen, Mari Kotilainen and Taina Kousa (2006) look at how the parish offers various activities for the Sudanese and provides a place where they can meet. As a practical thesis, it focuses on how the Sudanese can be better integrated into the parish and looks at what the Sudanese would like the parish to do for them. Likewise, Nahkala and Sarajärvi (2010) interviewed Sudanese women in Oulu to discern what help they have received from a women’s organisation. Trainee social worker Elina Paasikivi (2010) examines the dynamics of Sudanese marital relationships in the light of a marriage counselling event she organised for Sudanese refugees in Kokkola. Tabi Agbor Tabi (2009) also looks at the Sudanese, this time using survey methods. He summarises his results thus:

‘This research portrays a high dependency rate of the Sudanese on government assistance due to high unemployment rate, which is in turn due to lack of necessary working skills and motivation. It also depicts that attitudes of the dominant Finnish population to immigrants and refugees is improving, though at a snail’s pace. It shows that it is difficult to generalise the choice of the Sudanese as concerned their preferred type of acculturation. Though from the same country, the Sudanese came from different tribes and thus take different acculturation approaches.’

Obviously, this research is by undergraduates and is thus – in effect – an exercise in doing research rather than an attempt to make an original contribution to the field. Some of it does appear a tad sloppy – especially in terms of source citation – but this should not be seen as a criticism so much as a reflection of the fact that the writers are only just beginning their academic training and – anyway – they are focussed towards a specific job rather than a social scientific method or area of study. Nevertheless, I have mentioned these dissertations because they are published, have some useful information and are freely available. There is, however, no research on the Sudanese in Finland of doctoral level. Throughout this analysis, I will also contextualise my findings within other research on other African Diasporas.

Another field contribution which this research hopes to make is in terms of my own position as an anthropologist. It is widely accepted that one of the core benefits of ethnography is that the anthropologist approaches the field as an outsider and, because he is an outsider, he is able to penetrate the core presuppositions of the culture in a way that is difficult for people who have been immersed in it all their lives (see Kapferer 2001, 18). This is true of me with regard to the Sudanese but also with regard to the host culture in which they are operating – Finland – as I am originally from England. Thus, this ethnography will involves some ethnographic observations with regard to Finnish culture and the contrasts – and occasional similarities – between the Finnish and Sudanese cultures. I do not wish to make too much of this but I wondered – during my research – if a person who had been immersed in Finland all their lives would have noticed these similarities which, in my experience at least, contrast with the English way of life. In terms – certainly – of the practical dimension to this research which I will discuss below, I think that these observations of similarity are important as a means of helping to integrate the Sudanese. However, in this regard the book will be a contribution to relatively scant anthropological literature on Finnish culture by non-Finns.[9] My broader project has been studying Finnish culture ethnographically and I personally felt that studying another culture might assist in sharpening my ability to study the Finns by permitting me to contrast Finnish culture with another.

The research also raises questions with regard to my religious position. It is increasingly argued amongst anthropologists that so-called ‘methodological theism’ – accepting at face value the perceptions of the religious group being studied – is a useful method of research (see Engelke 2002). There may be some benefits, in terms of empathy, of having had religious experiences (see Dutton 2007) but I cannot see how one can ‘adopt’ methodological theism. It seems to imply you should – potentially – persuade yourself of a perspective you don’t necessarily agree with, almost as a kind of self-hypnosis. If this is not the case then, as far as I can see, it is not being clearly expressed. It seems to mean to conduct research as if God exists. It would seem to follow that it is acceptable to scientifically explain religion with reference to God (Droogers 2008, 455). From a scientific perspective, we assume only this reality (see Kuznar 1997) and, accordingly, such a method is unacceptable and I will I did not adopt it.

Religion and Immigration

This book will, by its very nature, contribute to the literature on religion and immigration, so it is worth pausing briefly to consider this. The relationship between immigrant communities and religion has been widely noted. Bruce (2002, 34) observes, for example, that when Irish Catholics migrated to London in the nineteenth century they were an excluded and socially marginalised community. They responded to this low status by establishing their own Irish Catholic churches. Consequently, they were able to compete for – and gain – social status within their own church community and the fact of having status within a ‘religious’ community provided them with status within the broader community because of the respect accorded to religiosity and because of their ability – as an organised community – to campaign for their own empowerment. Moreover, the development of such a community, Bruce points out, allowed members to negotiate their new situation as immigrants and to preserve their own culture while concomitantly integrating, to some extent, as more empowered members of the broader community. Similar processes, Bruce notes, can be observed amongst many immigrant communities in numerous countries. What he calls the ‘cultural transition’ reaction to change provides a means to negotiate a new identity and develop a new sense of social worth and various scholars (e.g. Geertz 1966, Hebdige 1979, Morris 1969) have noted the centrality of group membership to any structured form of individual identity. Group membership would therefore become especially significant to an immigrant detached from the symbolic dimensions of place, language and cultural activity and so forth through which his national identity is constructed.[10] We might argue that the development of Sudanese churches in northern Finland adds credence to Bruce’s historical observations. Moreover, ‘religion’ is a highly significant dimension to some forms of nationalism or discourses within particular nationalisms, a point which Bruce (1999) emphasises in relation to Polish national identity for example and which Wilson (1976) discusses with regard to the Lutheran church and Finnishness. Thus, ‘religion’ might become attractive to an immigrant as a means of expressing and preserving their sense of national identity in a foreign environment. As we will see, this is a particularly pertinent observation in relation to the Sudanese Christian Fellowship; the larger of the two Sudanese churches in Oulu.

Perhaps, Kalervo Oberg’s (1960) notion of ‘Culture Shock’ might also assist in explaining this process. Oberg argues that – at some stage in their adjustment – immigrants will react negatively to the host culture and represent their own culture in an unrealistically positive light. Indeed, they will tend to gravitate towards other immigrants and immigrants from their own ethnic backgrounds in particular. This heightened attachment to ones own foreign identity during a period of social transition may be another reason for the seemingly universal phenomenon of immigrants establishing their own immigrant groups when abroad and religious organisations in particular.[11] And, of course, the fact of these being religious organisations – rather than other forms – is also significant in terms of understanding identity development. Various scholars such as Galanter (1999) and Rambo (1993) have observed the tendency for people who are otherwise not particularly ‘religious’ to become involved with religion at times of social change. Indeed, Bruce (2002) observes a direct connection between rapid social change and religious revivals in the history of Wales to give a specific example. Religion provides certainty in a time of uncertainty and a strong identity at a time when immigrant identity is exposed to question. Wilson (1975) observes that ‘religion’ tends to be one of the most central dimensions to ‘culture,’ the components which a person is most emotionally attached to and, accordingly, most likely to reach for in times of crisis. Boyer (2001) and Dawkins (2006) both observe that it is in the stresses of a time of crisis that one is more likely to feel a sense of agency in the world – something explained by the evolutionary advantage to always perceiving a living thing, just in case there is (to fail to perceive one when there was one would result in death). Morris (1992) suggests that ‘religion’ is lodged deeply within contemporary constructions of identity and is, for this reason, only turned to at the most profound times in life – in a sense ‘times of crisis’ - when a person is compelled to think about such questions as who they are and even what the point of life is. It might be suggested that moving to foreign country might evoke such a ‘religious reaction’ in some immigrants. As such, I think there is a reasonable case – beyond our specific case-study of Finland – for expecting immigrant communities to create their own religious organisations (or to become more involved in religious organisations) to a greater extent than they otherwise might. My research hinted – and I should stress only hinted – at people becoming more religious as refugees as we shall see.

Immigration and Fundamentalism

Bruce (2002, 34) also notes what he calls ‘Cultural Defence’ in response to rapid change. In these circumstances, a group that feels in some way ‘under threat’ will retreat in on itself and create an organisation with strong boundaries in an attempt to preserve the perceived purity of their ideology and way of life and protect themselves from outsiders. Sandall (2001) looks at the way in which certain forms of nationalism and religion engage in this process and he terms them ‘Neo-Tribes’ because, like tribal organisations and in contrast to ‘civilisations,’ they tend to prize group solidarity and cohesiveness over a pursuit of ‘truth’, promote a world-view that appears less than entirely logical to outsiders and look to the past for ideas on how to live and think thus idealising the past. This phenomenon might be summarised as ‘fundamentalism’ or, as I have suggested, ‘religious radical conservatism’ due to the connotations of the word ‘fundamentalism.’

Nevertheless, Armstrong (2001) and many others such as Bruce (2002) and Barr (1977) employ the term ‘fundamentalism’ no matter what the sensitivity of ‘conservative’ religious practitioners may be. Armstrong (2001, xi) defines ‘fundamentalist’ groups in line with Bruce’s ‘Cultural Defence’ category and in such a way that the term – though originally relating to early twentieth century American Protestantism – can also be applied to other World Religions. Armstrong summarises that fundamentalist groups are ‘ . . . embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis . . . They fear annihilation and try to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of selective retrieval of certain doctrines and practices from the past.’ This is a broad summary but is nevertheless useful in trenchantly describing the dynamics of fundamentalist religiosity. Of course, there are different kinds of group that might be termed ‘fundamentalist’ and Bryan Wilson (1970) distinguishes between groups which are ‘conversionist’ and attempt to persuade others to join and those which are ‘introversionist’ and, having little interest in converting others, attempt to preserve their own purity and ideas. Wilson (1970) points out that some groups might begin as ‘conversionist’ and thereafter become ‘introversionist.’ We should also be aware – in discussing ‘fundamentalism’ – that it is a broad description which encompasses considerable differences in, for example, Protestant belief and practice. Thus, a distinction is often drawn between ‘Charismatic’ and ‘conservative evangelical’ Protestants.[12] Barr (1977) notes that both will tend to believe – to varying degrees – in ‘Biblical inerrancy’, socially conservative behavioural ethics and the importance of conversion experience and evangelism. However, the former will engage in ‘Charismatic’, lively worship which may include ‘spiritual gifts’ such as ‘prophecy’, ‘speaking in tongues’ and the gift of ‘healing.’ Moreover, as Wilson (1970) notes, some religiously conservative groups do not engage in active evangelism at all.

Returning to our discussion of immigration, we can perhaps begin to see why – though we will look at this in more depth below – ‘fundamentalism’ might be likely to develop and be attractive amongst certain immigrant communities. Asked to integrate or finding themselves in a more liberal religious culture, immigrants may feel that their religion and culture are under threat meaning that a fundamentalist form of religiosity begins to develop. They may feel a sense of crisis, assisting the development of such religiosity and rendering it attractive to immigrants because of the certainties it offers in time of change, the religion and culture that it preserves and, even we might suggest, the sense of superiority and status that it allows the immigrant to experience in relation to the dominant or host community in which the immigrants’ status may be relatively low on certain levels. My research would appear to reflect these suggestions, at least to a limited extent, as we will see.

Methodological Contribution

Finally, I also hope it is also an original contribution to the study of Diaspora more broadly. I will, in this book, be critical of some of the dominant currents within Diaspora research for a number of reasons. My main criticism of them – and a criticism that can be raised against anthropology more broadly – is that despite Derek Freeman’s sinking of Cultural Determinism in the 1980s[13] and the abundant evidence of the influence of genetics on issues of character and culture[14], many research projects in this area do not even attempt to ground their findings in science. Though, as I will emphasise, I support the naturalistic dimension to social anthropology I do so to the extent that it is ultimately grounded in biology and psychology. In this book, though I will provide a broadly naturalistic work, I will – where-ever possible – follow the issues which are raised back to the psychological and biological literature. I think that this is something which sets this book apart from many other works focusing on Diaspora. Secondly, my aim in presenting this ethnography is in no way to somehow defend or offer a voice to or even challenge stereotypes about the group which I have studied and I will challenge cultural relativism in favour of the critical-rationalist pursuit of knowledge which we will discuss below; defending the cautious use of essentialism and thus ‘stereotypes’. However, as I will argue below, I believe this ethnography will – if only indirectly – achieve these aims. Indeed, it might be argued that providing full scientific explanations assists in ‘understanding’ and thus dealing with prejudice. Finally, as I will note, some Diaspora research – especially in sociology – seems to me to be little more jargon which, like Post-Modern writing, intimidates the easily impressed reader into believing they are in the presence of a profound mind and disguises the almost complete lack of any original insights. For me, the aim of any academic writing is to communicate clearly so that anybody who understands English can understand what I’m saying without the use of dictionary. I hope I have achieved this.

In terms of ‘consilience’ (which we will discuss in more depth below) by understanding the Sudanese in greater depth we contribute to a rationalist environment which is ultimately conducive to science. In a more direct way, by understanding them we can better approach and deal with them which will hopefully lead to fewer social tensions and, again, an atmosphere conducive to rational enquiry. But primarily this book will aim to be a resource on Sudanese culture and religiosity for religious and other professionals who work with the Sudanese, inline with one of the putative aims of anthropology which is assisting the community which is studied. Accordingly, in the next chapter, there will a brief history of anthropology for readers who may be unfamiliar with it.


Diaspora Research

Critics of anthropology and many working within anthropology (e.g. Rees 2010a) have suggested that for much of its history, social anthropology has been limited by an understanding of ‘culture’ as some kind of timeless social fact. I have already looked in detail at the many problems with this argument. However, what may perhaps be argued is that in discussing culture, anthropology has tended to concentrate on cultures bounded physically to a certain geographical place. Brettell (2003, ix), for example, points out that in her analysis of Samoan culture Margaret Mead (1928) spent half a year or so in Samoa. She might equally have attempted to understand Samoan culture by spending time in an expatriate Samoan community in some part of the USA, if such a community existed at the time. But she did not. In a period during which people did not travel as much as they do now, the Rite of Passage for an aspiring anthropologist was to go to a foreign place – such as a tribal homeland – and immerse themselves in the ‘culture’ with the aim of reaching its so-called ‘ontological presuppositions’ (Kapferer 2001, 16). This model of anthropology has been criticised by Chow (1995) as an ‘unsustainable’ distinction between ‘us’ (anthropologists) and ‘them’ (those who are studied). It is apparently ‘unsustainable’ because modern travel patterns mean that those whom we would study are now among us having created communities within major cosmopolitan cities. I think this is another example of deifying the ‘modern condition’ as somehow uniquely different. There have, for many centuries, been cultural ghettoes within European cities but this has not been a reason for abandoning an ‘us’ and ‘them’ approach. This approach, as I have already argued, is developed from the fact that anthropology is – in the broadest sense – scientific while people practicing their ‘cultures’ – such as ‘religion’ and ‘nationalism’ – are generally not so in significant areas of this practice. Moreover, anthropologists – though perhaps to a lesser extent than in recent times – have also researched organisations that are far from ‘exotic’ such as the culture of the local pub in an English village (e.g. Bailey 1997) and various religious groups. Accordingly, I do not think there is a dramatic change in anthropology which means we must ‘destroy the operational premises of classical anthropology’ (Adesokan 2009, 413) as Chow has been summarised. Rather, as more and more people live in cities, countries and even continents in which they were not born, different forms of ‘culture’ are developing as are different forms of nationalism because of mass immigration from one particular country leading to expat ‘communities’ (or Diasporas) and the degree to which new technology – such as the internet – permits foreigners to, in a sense, remain an active part of their home nation (see Eriksen 2003). Low and Lawrence-Zuniga (2003, Ch. 1) point out that anthropology is well-placed to use the ethnographic method to study these developments but I would argue that this does not mean that various notions from classical anthropology – such as studying the ‘other’ or examining a foreign ‘culture’ or even ‘nation’ – need to be abandoned. We have defended cautious essentialism and such essentialism permits the meaning and extent of categories to be malleable.

In the last twenty years, there has been a proliferation of ethnographic studies of Diaspora communities all around the world and from all around the world. Derived from the Greek, the word literally translates as ‘to sow or scatter seeds’ (sperien) and ‘dia’ (across). The word appears to have first been used in the Septuagint (the original Greek translation of the Old Testament) to refer to the Hellenic Jewish communities in Alexandria in the 3rd Century BC. It was then employed in Rabbinical writings to describe Jews who lived outside of Palestine (Evans Braziel and Mannur 2003). Gilray (2002) concurs that the archetypal Diaspora is the Jewish Diaspora. Even in the Old Testament, the Jews were forced into exile before eventually returning to their homeland. But a more permanent Diaspora was created after the Roman destruction of Judaea after which Jewish communities began to spread throughout the Roman Empire and eventually beyond. By the Medieval period, Israel itself was predominantly run by Muslims while Jewish communities existed in much of Christian Europe and in many Islamic countries. With the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, there is a clear Jewish homeland but the overwhelming majority of the world’s Jews are settled – in many cases for centuries – in Diaspora communities. Gilray (2002, 160) observes that much that is true of a ‘nation’ is also true of these communities. They are, in a sense, a nation in exile. Weber (1996, 35) described ethnicity as involving the affinity of a person to a certain political community. This affinity was established by a checklist of points of commonality between the community members: shared culture, shared working environment, shared race and language and the self-perception of boundaries between ones own ethnicity and that of ‘others.’ The objective dimension of these points matters less than their perception and he argues that these boundaries can be highly permeable and different dimensions can become salient at different times. However, members of an ethnic group would tend to ‘honour their members rather than outsiders.’ Weber summarises by highlighting the importance of ‘common language, religious beliefs and habits’ (36) to the self-identification of an ethnic group. Finally, he suggests that ‘ethnic groups dissolve into the nation’ (40) which can be, but is not necessarily, composed of a number of different ethnic groups. Barth (1969) develops Weber by emphasising that it is important that any ethnic group has an ‘other’ of some kind in relation to which it identifies itself. And Kidd (1999, 97) points out that there are a variety of interpretations of any ethnicity contingent on social class or political belief. But in looking at ethnicity we are examining something similar to that ‘complex whole’ of ‘culture.’

The body of literature on ethnic identity – and ‘nationalism’ – is immense. There is considerable debate, for example, with modernists such as Andersen (1983) arguing that nationalism developed as a consequence of the process of modernisation. This lead to ethnic groups - and society in general – being brought together through phenomena such as the mass media and the development of a written language as well as mass education. As a consequence, there developed the mass internalisation of being part of one nation in European countries. However, some scholars such as Smith (1999) are sceptical of this ‘modernist’ position. Known as ‘primordialists,’ they argue that nationalism or proto-nationalism can be traced back considerably further than the nineteenth century, especially amongst certain social classes, and is rooted in older ethnic identities. It may be that the nineteenth century saw the ‘mass’ internalisation of nationalism which had already occurred earlier amongst the elite, something with which ‘the masses’ were gradually inculcated and I would suggest that this allows us to reconcile the two positions to a certain degree. Kumar (2003) makes the distinction between ‘civic nations’ – where ethnicity is less important than assent to certain ideals – and ‘ethno-nations’ – in which the dominant mark of membership is blood bonds. I would agree with Smith that many ‘civic-nations’ have – beneath them – what is effectively an ethno-nation or at least hold some kind of dominant ethnic identity within their discourse and Great Britain might be seen to exemplify this with England as the substantially dominant component. As Hroch (1996, 79) puts it, some kind of shared cultural ‘memory’ is an integral part of sustaining the bonds of nationalism. Returning to Gilray (2002), much of this is true of members of Diasporas. They have a common sense of history, a shared language and, mostly distinctively, the shared perception of a homeland and a collective memory of it. In many cases, having fled as refugees, they retain a strong interest in their homeland and in many cases they wish to return to it and even restore it to some past condition (e.g. Armstrong 2004).

As already noted, Diaspora is currently is a fashionable research topic. In particular, since the inauguration of the interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal Diaspora in 1991 it has been a concerted subject of scholarly debate. Braziel Evans and Mannur (2003) observe that the term has proliferated not only in anthropology but in numerous other areas of social science and humanities scholarship. They caution, however, against its being used too broadly. It has sometimes been employed to refer to all dislocations ‘even symbolic ones.’ Instead, we might be pause to consider the implications of ‘Diaspora’. In order to be a Diaspora, those who are part of it must have – in effect – a sense of tribal togetherness. They must be part of an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1983) – a kind of nation – because otherwise the Diaspora community is not hinged upon anything. Consequently, current Diasporas in Europe and America – many of them hailing from developing countries – only make sense in the context of national awakenings in these regions and these tended to occur as part of the decolonisation that took place between the end of World War II and the 1980s. Braziel Evans and Mannur (2003, 3) summarise that Diasporas ‘question the rigidities of identity itself – religious, ethnic, gendered, national;’ by marking a ‘nomadic turn in which the very parameters of specific historical movements are embodied’ and are ‘scattered and regrouped into new forms of becoming.’ I think we can interpret this as meaning that Diasporas develop new, nuanced forms of older categories which can become the starting point for discussion and analysis

In examining the concept of Diaspora, I cannot ignore the supposed political dimensions to the discussion. ‘Diaspora,’ as with the culture concept which we have already discussed in detail, has provoked various debates of this kind. For example, Paul Gilroy (2003) has criticised the concept of an ‘African Diaspora’ accusing it ‘ethnic absolutism’ which homogenises difference and helps to sustain ‘colonial’ binarisms such as ‘white/black.’ As I have already noted, this kind of argument could be employed in relation any concept – essentialism will homogenise to some extent but this does not make it of no use. Equally, as I have already argued, the aim of social science is to further make sense of an object of study. Any political consequences this may have are thus of no relevance unless it is believed that areas of enquiry should be stopped because some people might regard the results as less than palatable. Likewise, I cannot see that categories become problematic because of their supposed political consequences. We are left asking what the political agenda is of the person who suggests that certain categories be abandoned on political grounds. I have already argued that this is revolutionary in nature and that this is incongruous with the spirit of critical rationalism.

Diaspora Scholarship and Religion

This lack of critical rationalism is a pervading problem in Diaspora scholarship. Various scholars have moved beyond definition and attempted to theorise the experience of being part of a Diaspora. It strikes me that they appear to discuss it in implicitly religious terms. Before looking at this, let me make it clear what I mean by ‘religion’ and ‘implicit religion.’ Geertz (1966, 4) defines religion as follows:

Religion is a system of symbols which act to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by forming conceptions of a general account of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

I appreciate that there are some problems with this definition. It may, as Fitzgerald (1997) suggests, cast the net of ‘religion’ too wide and we should be careful with it accordingly. However, it is a widely accepted definition of religion amongst social anthropologists and, accordingly, I shall draw upon it here. I would argue that Geertz’s definition is highly congruous with understanding ‘religion’ in implicit terms. I would understand ‘explicit religion’ as being ‘religion’ in the commonly accepted, dictionary-like definition of term advocated by scholars such as Bruce (2002). ‘Religion’ refers to a set of ideas which relates to a non-physical existence involving gods, ghosts, ancestors and so forth. An idea is ‘implicitly religious’ where it does not overtly involve such phenomena but where it involves for phenomena that are broadly comparable to these; where it functions in a similar manner to religion. Thus, Marxism may not involve gods but – like overt religion – but it involves a kind of hidden hand, behind the scenes, which effectively controls history and destiny in the form of the inevitability of the dialectic. In this sense (as well as others such as the presence of religious fervour and believing in ideas that cannot be proven or disproven, points Popper highlights in relation to ‘false rationalism’), Marxism is ‘religious’ and can be better understood through the prism of religion. It is this understanding of ‘religion’ which has underpinned many other examinations in this field. For example, Porter (2009) has examined the religious dimensions to ‘fan communities’ such as those built around the television series Star Trek. In terms of belief in phenomena, they are not ‘religious’ but they broadly function so similarly to religious organisations that they can be better understood through the metaphor of religion. This has even been argued to be true of the scientific community (Jenkins 2009). In my view, the discussion of implicit religion raises a fundamental problem in Post-Enlightenment Western thought. As Fitzgerald (1997) argues, we distinguish between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’, in a way that occurs less clearly in Eastern cultures, and assume the ‘secular’ to be ‘rational’ in the sense of not involving belief in gods or spirits. However, this is problematic because it creates a disconnect between the religious past and the secular present despite this present being descended from the religious past. Accordingly philosophers such as Benoist (2004), argue that many modern, secular ideologies are clearly descended from ‘religion’, function in the same way and, structurally, have a great deal in common. As such they are best understood as ‘religion’ and ignoring their religious dimensions risks misunderstanding them.

Having defined religion, I think it can be applied to some significant discussions of Diaspora. Stuart Hall (2003), for example, argues that the ‘diaspora experience is defined not by essence or purity but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity and diversity; by a conception of identity which lives in and through, not despite, difference; by hybridity.’ Cutting through the jargonese, what does this sentence actually mean? How can an experience possibly not be defined by an ‘essence’? If you are defining anything at all, it is – by definition – defined in relation to an essence (see Dennett 1995). A word, by its very nature, homogenises that which is anomalous (such as a white strawberry) or that which is borderline. There is an essence – even if only a cautious essence – at the heart of any definition of anything or it is not really a definition at all. This ‘essence’, to some extent, is ‘pure’ in that it has boundaries and ceases to be part of the essence if it is too strongly polluted, a point made by Douglas (1966). How can ‘identity’ live ‘in and through, not despite, difference’? What do we mean by ‘identity’? As Hans Mol (1976) argues it is, in effect, a sense of self and psychologists tend to agree that this sense of self is anchored some kind of social organisation (see Boyer 2002). In order to be an organisation, it must have boundaries of some kind; it must have others – no matter how vaguely identified – who are not part of it or it is not distinctive from anything else. Hall’s (2003) conception of Diaspora, as far as I can see, makes very little sense at all if we actually analyse it rather than become beguiled or intellectually intimidated by the high-order language he employs. Gilroy (2003) argues that Diaspora ‘strives in the pursuit of the sublime, struggling to repeat the unrepeatable, to present the unpresentable’. It might be argued that this neatly captures the essence of many conceptions of nationalism – striving towards an idealised, tribal past. Accordingly, we might also expect it to be true of Diaspora nationalism and Gilroy’s use of the word ‘sublime’ hints at the religious dimensions to many conceptions of nationalism. Kobena Mercer (2003) defines the experience in more conceptual terms as a ‘criticial diologism’ that challenges ‘the monologic exclusivity on which dominant versions of national identity and collective belonging are based.’ This permits ‘powerfully syncretic dynamic, which critically appropriates elements from the master codes of the dominant culture and creolizes them, disarticulating given signs and rearticulating their symbolic meaning otherwise.’ With reference to my point about religion, one of the crucial dimensions to scientific discourse is that it expresses its findings clearly. The use of fallacy is a sign of non-scientific discourse – of religious discourse – and appeal to verbosity is a well known example of such a fallacy. It is implicitly religious because it indicates a lack of critical thought and thus a fervent belief in something or because it is an attempt to manipulate the reader such that they accept, uncritically, the fervent assumptions of the writer. Mercer could have stated her view far more simply. She has deliberately chosen not to. Like Andreski (1974) I assume this is because, firstly, she is disguising the lack of an original insight in a ‘smokescreen of jargon’ and, secondly, verbosity is a fallacious means of persuading people of something that it is not logically justifiable. As philosopher Denis Dutton (5th February 1999) once put it in relation to a classic piece of sociological jargon by Judith Butler[15], ‘To ask what this means is to miss the point. This sentence beats readers into submission and instructs them that they are in the presence of a great and deep mind. Actual communication has nothing to do with it.’ I assume Mercer is saying that Diasporas imitate the dominant (usually host) culture but mix this with maintained aspects of their native culture. I think most social scientists would agree with that. They create hybrid forms of identity as any such mass movement would. This aside, it has also been emphasised that Diaspora does not ‘transcend’ differences of race, class, gender and so forth. These differences tend to be maintained within the Diaspora.

Indeed, quite apart from the use of the fallacies highlighted above, many other scholars have criticised the concept of ‘Diaspora.’ It has been criticised as being ‘theoretically celebrated’ but ahistorical and ‘methodologically indistinct’ (see Evans-Braziel and Mannur 2003). In response, I would suggest that this is no truer of ‘Diaspora’ than many other categories such as ‘culture’. In dealing with social facts about how human-being operate they are bound – hopefully cautiously – to be ahistorical to some extent. Robbins (1995) has been especially critical in an article in the journal Social Text arguing that, having analysed their writings, Diaspora scholars are often part of the ‘transnationalist movement.’ They are effectively in favour of globalization and use journals such as Diaspora to map out this process. He asks how and why such journals favour models of nationality based around mass movements over others. I think he has a point about the political dynamics of much Diaspora studies and the implicitly religious descriptions of Diaspora by scholars such as Stuart Hall further demonstrate this point as does Mercer’s verbosity which does little more than make the idea of Diaspora seem amazingly profound to the uncritical reader and thus promote it. Equally, Evans-Braziel and Mannur (2003, 12), in their desire to persuade the reader that their collection on Diaspora is vital to scholarship, assert ‘We are in a unique historical moment wherein different diasporic trajectories intersect and overlap.’ I have (Dutton 2009b, Ch. 2) looked at the religious dimensions to the use of the word ‘unique’. That which is ‘unique’ is beyond any comparison. Indeed, it is impossible to even put into words and thus highly comparable to God (see also Dale 1986). If the term is being misused to mean ‘very distinct,’ then the fact that it is being misused betokens uncritical thinking and thus fervent assumptions, factors which are a significant component of religion (Dutton 2010b). Moreover, surely any historical moment is unique and throughout history people have believed that their epoch is and this is especially so in ‘modern’ times. Popper (1957) notes that revolutionaries always believe that they are living in unique, special and radical times. Underpinning this kind of illogical writing may well be a kind of ‘false rationalist’ worldview which believes that we are living in revolutionary times that are incomparable to any other times and, as they are incomparable, one assumes, beyond analysis which inherently involves comparison.


[1] See Dutton (Oct 2009).

[2] For more detailed discussion of the period see Dutton (2009c) where there is a detailed bibliography on the subject or Dutton (Oct 2009). See also, for example, Kirby (2006) or Browning (1999).

[3] Collins (2005, 78).

[4] This section draws upon a number of published histories of Sudan. See, for example, Collins (2008) or Fadlalla (2004) for considerably more detail.

[5] David Chidester has conducted a detailed historical analysis of the spread of Christianity and has noted the way in which pre-Christian rituals and even ideas are integrated into subsequently Christian cultures when they are converted. For example, in many cultures Goddess worship was replaced by the Cult of the Virgin Mary (Chidester 2000, 358). To give another example, in England, Easter – commemorating Jesus’ death and resurrection – was able to replace the Pagan celebration of the same name which celebrated the myth of ‘John Barleycorn’ being murdered but coming back to life in the form of the spring corn (Graves 1968, 64).

[6] There are few detailed discussions of the history of Christianity in Sudan. For the information here, I have consulted, for example, Livingstone (2000) as well as broader national histories.

[7] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 2006.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The most pertinent published, etic, anthropological studies of the Finns are the following: Lander (1976), Roberts (1989), Abrahams (1991), Edelsward (1991), Armstrong (2004), Dutton (2009b).

[10] I appreciate that the literature on national identity is voluminous and it is beyond the scope of this discussion to go into it in depth. Obviously any nationalism contains competing interpretations and emphases according to time-period, social status and so on as Kidd (1999) observes. See also Anderson (1983) and Gellner (1983).

[11] For a discussion of the religious dimensions of Culture Shock see Dutton (In Print).

[12] Indeed, as Labanow (2009) points out, there is a growing ‘liberal evangelical’ movement known as the ‘Emerging Church.’ Influenced by Post-Modern ideas it is difficult to term its members ‘fundamentalist’ though they are ‘evangelical.’

[13] Margaret Mead (1928) had argued – through her fieldwork in Samoa – that she had proved ‘cultural determinism’. She purported to have proved this because, she argued, Samoans were permitted to live free and unfettered lives and this meant there were no ‘difficult teenage years’ as found in the West. Freeman (1983) proved that her portrayal of Samoan life was hopelessly romantic and, at best, Mead’s informants had simply lied to her, which they could do because she was not even living with Samoans but, rather, in a US Naval Base. He thus refuted the then dominant belief in anthropology of cultural relativism, highlighting the need to account for the influence of human evolution on personality and society.

[14] For a summary of the literature see, for example, Alarcon, Foulkes and Vakkur (1998, 11) who observe: ‘A direct link between genes and personality traits has been established in several cross-cultural studies. Researchers in the United States and Israel independently discovered that people who score high on psychological test items that reflect traits of extroversion, impulsiveness, thrill-seeking, quick-temperedness, novelty-seeking, euphoria and extravagance have a particular variant of a gene (D4DR) that allows the brain to respond to dopamine and D4 receptor sites.’

[15] ‘The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power’ (Butler 1997).


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From Sudan Suomi Sudanese Christians Northern Finland



Titel: From Sudan to Suomi