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Book Review Gérard Prunier. Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005. Pp. 212, cloth. $24.00 US. Reviewed by Samuel Totten, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Jerusalem, Israel Written by a noted expert on East Africa, the Horn, Sudan, and the Great Lakes region of Africa, Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide is the first book to attempt to delineate and analyze the various historical antecedents, chronology of events, and ramifications of the current crisis in Darfur, Sudan. In doing do, Gérard Prunier, a research professor at the University of Paris, does a yeoman’s job of wrestling with the complexity of historical figures, events, and the Byzantine twists and turns that have taken place within Sudan and Darfur over the past two centuries. The book comprises six chapters: (1) ‘‘Independent Darfur: Land, People, History’’ (2) ‘‘Darfur and Khartoum (1916–1985): An Unhappy Relationship’’ (3) ‘‘From Marginalization to Revolt: Manipulated ‘Arabism’ and ‘Racial’ Anarchy (1985–2003)’’ (4) ‘‘Fear at the Centre: From Counter Insurgency to Quasi-Genocide (2003–2005)’’ (5) ‘‘The World and the Darfur Crisis’’ (6) ‘‘Conclusion: Darfur and the Global Sudan Crisis’’ In chapter 1, Prunier describes what he calls ‘‘the lie of the land.’’ Here he delineates the intricacy and complexity of the cultural and ethnic composition of Darfur and examines Darfur’s years of being independent. With respect to the ethnic complexity of Darfur, Prunier asserts that the present crisis has been presented in the media as consisting of a form of ethnic cleansing verging on the genocidal, as carried out at Khartoum’s behest by ‘‘Arab’’ tribes against ‘‘African’’ ones. This is both true and false, and much of this book will be devoted to trying to disentangle the true from the false, the reality from the ideologically structured appearances. (4) For anyone to even begin to understand what is behind the current crisis, such information is crucial. And at this, Prunier succeeds quite well. Prunier goes on to state that The population of Darfur is a complex and interwoven ensemble of tribes, both ‘‘Arab’’ and ‘‘African.’’ The situation is further complicated by the fact that some of the ‘‘Africans’’ have lost their language and adopted Arabic, while others practice forms of entrenched diglossia and others still have retained their original tongue. Racially, to use this politically obsolete term, the mix is as complicated as linguistically. In terms of skin color everybody is black but the various forms of Sudanese cultural racism distinguish ‘‘zurug’’ [literally ‘‘dark blue,’’ to connote darkness, commonly used as a pejorative to mean ‘‘black Africans’’] from ‘‘Arab,’’ even if the skin has the same color. Usually the difference has to do with facial features (shape of nose, thickness of lips). (4–5) Samuel Totten, review of Darfur: The Ambiguous Genocide by Gérard Prunier. Genocide Studies and Prevention 1, 1 (July 2006): 83–88. ß 2006 Genocide Studies and Prevention. The above is simply a slice of Prunier’s interesting and informative exposition on the issue of race, ethnicity, and ‘‘Arab’’ and ‘‘African.’’ As for the designations ‘‘African’’ and ‘‘Arab,’’ it worth noting that during the recent crisis in Darfur, various scholars, investigative groups, and others have addressed the complexity of discerning who is ‘‘Arab’’ and who is ‘‘African.’’ In doing so, they have discussed the artificial nature of such a distinction. That said, case law developed at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) established that a subjective versus objective determination can be used to ascertain the status of a group. More specifically, the objective criterion of a ‘‘stable and permanent group,’’ which, if considered per se, could be held to be rather questionable, was supplemented in the ICTR case law (and subsequently in that of the ICTY) by the subjective standard of perception and self-perception as a member of a group. According to this case law, in case of doubt one should also establish whether (i) a set of persons are perceived and in fact treated as belonging to one of the protected groups, and in addition (ii) they consider themselves as belonging to such groups. In short, the approach taken...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1911-9933
Print ISSN
1911-0359
Pages
pp. 83-88
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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