restricted access 6. Whose Modernity? Negotiating Social Change
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The Hadendowa move between two realities, two constructed spatialities. The first is composed of scattered tent clusters made of worn-out mats or small rooms built of timber and scrap metals, in which women and children spend most of their day. The second is an urban setting dominated by hishan architecture (enclosed cement, brick, or mud houses) and the official government institutions such as schools, courts, and hospitals that are culturally maintained by Muslim, Arabic-speaking northern Sudanese. It has long been the role of pastoral Hadendowa men to mediate between these rural and urban social spaces through their frequent camel trips to exchange their livestock products for other consumer goods in town. Recently , due to extensive migration and displacement, Hadendowa men and women have become entirely dependent for their living on the urban market economies, on the NGOs, and on their employers. In Port Sudan the social distance between the Hadendowa who live in daims (working-class residential areas) and the different classes of northern 169 Chapter 6 Whose Modernity? Negotiating Social Change First you will raise the island of the Sirens, those creatures who spellbind any man alive, whoever comes their way. Whoever draws too close, off guard, and catches the Sirens’ voices in the air— no sailing home for him, no wife rising to meet him, no happy children beaming up at their father’s face. The high, thrilling song of the Sirens will transfix him. Homer, “The Cattle of the Sun,” The Odyssey Sudanese, Sawakinese merchants, and other Beja elites is even more pronounced than in Sinkat town. Along the shore the ships’ sirens mix with the work songs of kala workers, many of whom have left their families behind in search of work in the harbor. In the city they confront new realities of poverty and marginalization that prevent them from sustaining their household economies back home. In response displaced Hadendowa women are facing the dual responsibility of working both inside and outside their homes. In Sinkat town many women squat along the highway for long hours to sell mats, eggs, and candies for pennies to the passengers traveling to large urban centers. Right before their eyes, the “time-space” continuum compresses (Harvey 1989) through the extensions of railways, roads, and ports that bring more “foreign” people and commodities across their land, creating an imaginary world of desires and a reality of poverty and destitution they must confront. A few Hadendowa men manage to travel these “constructed routes” seeking education and better jobs, a journey that may take them as far as the Gulf or the West. In Sinkat town women such as Halima, whom we encountered in the introduction, still enter the hishan houses as housemaids and receive less in wages than their physical efforts warrant. The Hadendowa are thus part of these rural-urban social realities that have long influenced their economic lives and physical wellbeing and their conceptualization of danger, foreignness, and regeneration. Within the Hadendowa honor economy in both rural and urban settings , women experience the changing realities of their worlds through their bodies, as they struggle to maintain auslif relations through their modesty and regenerative power. Wealth in sons and daughters is the definitive source of honor for regenerating the social and economic foundation of patrilineality and maintaining collective identity. Like the ancestral land, women’s fertile bodies, as the icons of regeneration, can be “colonized” as well. Yet “colonization”in this sense can be both manifest, as in threats from external groups to the ancestral land, or implicit, as in marriage to outsiders as well as in dangerous diseases transmitted through “unfamiliar” people, commodities, and livestock that endanger the productive and reproductive capacities of lineage members. Because both men and women occupy a precarious location within the community, we have come to realize that both are situated on the margins of a larger political nexus. Although men struggle to ensure that the power within remains intact and external power is defeated, women too must defend their bodies from being lost to the transfixing effects of an external power.Homer’snarrativeof theSirens,thecreaturesonthehorizonwhoentice people and threaten their identities with their singing, evokes women’s narratives about the “deceptive”foreign spirits that target their modesty and responsible motherhood. In this context social distance communicates 170 Whose Modernity? meanings of power and danger that can transfix, harm, and transform. The increasing porousness of the Hadendowa world, however, renders their contact with foreignness inevitable. Both men and women...


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