Defining the Nation: National Identity in South Sudanese Media Discourse

Ole Frahm


This article examines debates about national identity in the media landscape of post-referendum and post-independence South Sudan. Having never existed as a sovereign state and with its citizens being a minority group in Sudan, collective action among South Sudanese has historically been shaped in response to external pressures: in particular, the aggressive nation-building pursued by successive Khartoum governments that sought to Arabize and Islamize the South. Today, in the absence of a clear-cut enemy, it is a major challenge for South Sudan to devise a common identity that unites the putative nation beyond competing loyalties to ethnicity, tribe and family. Analysing opinion pieces from South Sudanese online media and placing them in the context of contemporary African nationalism, this article gives an initial overview of the issues that dominate the public debate on national identity: fear of tribalism and regionalism, commemoration of the liberation struggle, language politics, and the role of Christianity.

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