This research looked at the language of a changing social and ethical order among new Christians in Sudan. It examined how identity and the gendered moral means to perform it in semiotic practice are realized through Christianity. Moro people from the Nuba Mountains overwhelmingly converted to Christianity in the 1980s and 1990s in conjunction with a civil war that forced many of them to leave the Nuba Mountains and settle in Khartoum, the capital. These events resulted in an indigenous movement that linked ethnic identity with Christianity largely focused on the gendered activities of a Moro literacy program. The project focused on the role of Moro women in this movement; those who become literate in “the Moro language”, who become Church preachers and moral leaders, and who embrace new spiritual resources in their domestic relationships, but who constantly measure their new role as Christian subjects against gendered ideas about “the past”.

While this is a study of changes brought about by modernity, the analytical focus is on the debates that modernity introduces – the period of rapid social change and the disquiet about what is and what should be in the new morality and order. It is not, therefore, a study of modernity as the endpoint of a unilinear process, but rather how it is translated into specific “orders of worth” which are debated locally. Among these is a value orientation towards the Christian West, but also towards Moro pre-Christian values, as well as that towards modernity and values available in the Sudanese Arab socioeconomic sphere. To study this turbulent semiotic process, I adopt a pragmatic theoretical framework as it developed in sociology and in linguistic anthropology, and argue that women invoke moral self-worth in debating and discussing changing values.

Key publication

Unpublished PhD Dissertation: “Virtuous Language: Gendered Morality and Ethnonational Politics among Moro Christians in Sudan”.