Timm Sureau

Timm Sureau

Timm has been doing research in Sudan and South Sudan since 2006. His first research focused on political narratives of marginalization in northern Sudan, highlighting the dissonance between the media discourse, personal and family experiences. For his PhD, begun in 2010, he examines state formation processes in South Sudan from an anthropological viewpoint, allowing him to enquire into the mechanisms of legitimation and negotiation in state formation. The low degree of institutionalization with its low barriers of access during the emergence of South Sudanese statehood allowed him to analyze the scope and influence of manifold individual and collective actors. More recently, he concentrates on the digital processes by which state stability and legitimation is supported, and how knowledge, ‘truth’ and evidence are shaped through the control of information flow. He received his master’s degree in Social Anthropology, Human Geography and Computer Science from the Free University of Berlin in 2010. And is currently PhD-candidate at the Max-Planck-Institute for Social Anthropology and at the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg.

Current position
Research Coordinator
University affiliation
Max-Planck-Institute for Social Anthropology


Timm’s research in Torit town in South Sudan is on the continuous construction and reconstruction of the state, but also examines features of its structural endurance and perseverance. He shows how multiple ideas of a state are translated into local contexts, such as the necessity and functioning of formal Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) processes, monetarization of the economy and the creation of a national identity. These ideas are transported with the help of experts, manuals, and people contributing with their own experiences, building on and shaping existing hopes and symbols. Carving out the elements of state formation that actually contribute to the stabilization of the South Sudanese state, or its destabilization, means going beyond a pre-defined set of ideas about what a state is, often based on an understanding derived from western European welfare nation-states.


  • Lamoureaux, Siri and Timm Sureau (forthcoming) (2017) "Knowledge and legitimacy: the fragility of digital mobilization in Sudan." in Digital Publics and Counterpublics in Africa
  • Seidel, Katrin, and Timm Sureau, eds. (2015) "Emerging South Sudan: negotiating statehood (special issue)." in Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (4)
  • Seidel, Katrin, and Timm Sureau (2015) "Introduction: peace and constitution making in emerging South Sudan on and beyond the negotiation tables." in Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (4):612-33
  • Sureau, Timm (2015) "Confusing DDR: how DDR shifted its face." in Emerging orders in the Sudan , edited by Enrico Ille, Sandra Calkins and Richard Rottenburg, 273-298. Bamenda and Buea: Langaa
  • Sureau, Timm (2013) "New forms of exclusion in Torit: contestation over urban land." in Forging Two Nations: Insights on Sudan and South Sudan , edited by Elke Grawert, 143-159. Addis Ababa: OSSREA