Theorizing (Dis)order: Exploratory Remarks

The philosopher Eric Heller wrote, ‘Be careful how you interpret the world; it is like that.’[29] One of the challenges facing the social scientist is that a deep knowledge of a particular issue, or a particular place, allows the scholar to write about it with an authoritative subjectivity. In my own writings on Sudan, I have approached the same topic (e.g. political violence) from different perspectives, each time with some explanatory purchase. These different frameworks of explanation may be incompatible with one another, but that has not hindered me from using them.

My concluding point in this paper is therefore, that (dis)order may be in the eye of the beholder, or the pen of the writer, as much as in the world that is being observed or described. However, rather than lapsing into an irretrievable subjectivity and a resigned agnosticism, I prefer to be cautious about what can and cannot be explained, and to insist on always bearing in mind the limitations of any particular point of view.

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Interview with Alex de Waal in Addis Fortune

Ethiopia is at a very critical moment. There is the potential for it to go in a highly marketized and monetized political direction. There is also the potential, if the EPRDF leadership responds to the current situation with what I see as the appropriate measures to consolidate, to turn the developmental successes into a politically solid democratization project.

What is interesting about Sudan, particularly with the squeeze from the oil revenue, is that the Sudanese business class is beginning to assert itself, and that has the potential for stabilizing politics in northern Sudan. There are some very immediate dangers of democracy, to do with Sudan’s engagement with the wider politics of the Middle East and the growth of the defense and security establishments.

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