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Keywords:

  • human rights;
  • torture;
  • Sudan;
  • Dinka;
  • universal

ABSTRACT  Here I detail violence in South Sudan by first discussing a specific Dinka Agaar practice alongside existing discourses on the social aspects of violence and universal human rights, then I show how these acts had meaning and purpose using data from personal accounts of violence. I posit that the violence described was consistent with Dinka Agaar concepts of justice and basic human rights and that it cannot be judged against any universal human rights standard, devoid of local context or of an overarching metanarrative. These events highlight conflicting subjectivities, ethical norms, and the painful difficulties inherent to advocacy in areas of conflict. Viewed from the perspective of the larger social unit, it is easy to see how violence was required to end violence. However, witnessing punitive violence purposefully enacted on innocent individuals to achieve peace has the potential to create conflicting positions that modern anthropological discourse cannot reconcile.