Chosen Peoples

Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan

Chosen Peoples

Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People

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Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 3 illustrations Published: May 2021

African Studies, History > African History, Religious Studies

On July 9, 2011, South Sudan celebrated its independence as the world's newest nation, an occasion that the country's Christian leaders claimed had been foretold in the Book of Isaiah. The Bible provided a foundation through which the South Sudanese could distinguish themselves from the Arab and Muslim Sudanese to the north and understand themselves as a spiritual community now freed from their oppressors. Less than three years later, however, new conflicts emerged along ethnic lines within South Sudan, belying the liberation theology that had supposedly reached its climactic conclusion with independence. In Chosen Peoples, Christopher Tounsel investigates the centrality of Christian worldviews to the ideological construction of South Sudan and the inability of shared religion to prevent conflict. Exploring the creation of a colonial-era mission school to halt Islam's spread up the Nile, the centrality of biblical language in South Sudanese propaganda during the Second Civil War (1983--2005), and postindependence transformations of religious thought in the face of ethnic warfare, Tounsel highlights the potential and limitations of deploying race and Christian theology to unify South Sudan.


“Christopher Tounsel makes a major contribution to the study of South Sudanese political thought. He has drawn on the literature of Black liberation theology in Africa as well as the Americas, giving the South Sudanese a place in the theoretical literature that has excluded them up to now. Chosen Peoples presents unique material that has the potential to shift the way we understand the history of Sudan and South Sudan and the role of religion in politics more generally.” — Douglas H. Johnson, author of South Sudan: A New History for a New Nation

Chosen Peoples is a remarkable achievement, revealing unexplored chapters of South Sudanese history and placing them into a novel analytic frame that will impact how we think about postcolonial liberation for many years to come. In this brave book, Christopher Tounsel does not shy away from asking difficult questions of his material, the reward being that he opens considerable space for thinking anew about the mutual construction of race and religion in the two Sudans and beyond.” — Noah Salomon, author of For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan’s Islamic State


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Christopher Tounsel is Catherine Shultz Rein Early Career Professor in the College of the Liberal Arts and Assistant Professor of History and African Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction: Winds of Change  1
1. The Nugent School and the Ethno-Religious Politics of Mission Education  23
2. The Equatorial Corps and the Torit Mutiny  44
3. Liberation War  67
4. Khartoum Goliath: The Martial Theology of SPLM/SPLA Update  88
5. The Troubled Promised Land  113
Conclusion: Inheriting the Wind  135
Sources and Methodology  145
Notes  151
Bibliography  177
Index  199
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1176-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1063-0