Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan.

AuthorNti, Kwaku

Tounsel, Christopher. Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021.

The title of this book happens to be an abstraction of the essence of South Sudan rooted in its being one of the areas in the northeastern corner of the African continent with credible claims to earliest associations with Christianity. Furthermore, the profuseness of biblical invocations prior to and through the independence of this modern African nation as the focus of this book cast it in the mode of religiously infused historical genealogy political thought. Christopher Tounsel argues that the recent recurrent biblical invocations represent iterations in a longer history of a genre of nationalism steeped in religion. This historical trajectory had seen South Sudanese thinkers use Christian thought and theology as seedbeds on which racial identity obtained potent spiritual power. Relatedly, therefore, the Bible provided the language for resistance, definitions of friends and enemies, "and script for political and often seditious action in... quest for self-determination and sovereignty" (3). According to Tounsel, this approach and the verve that pushed it invariably succeeded in blurring "the lines between secular and sacred in the genealogy of the nations political thought" (4). Hence, Chosen Peoples is a "spiritual chronicle" that explores the ways in which a deep Christian outlook, modes of organization, and theology informed the ideological framework of modern South Sudan.

The secular-sacred dynamic in this context became indispensable when the erstwhile larger Sudan, especially, from the Mahdist era in the late nineteenth century couched for itself a long and resolute history of Islamization policies meant to fashion the country as an Islamic state. Consequently, the tension and animosity that these official policies unleashed knew no bounds particularly because of the presence of a significant population of non-Muslims. These troubling beginnings intensified as the mode of unifying the state for the government meant an extension of Arab ism and Islam to its southern reaches, which had experienced extensive Christian missionary activities during the colonial era. Consequently, as the government pursued a systematic takeover of mission schools, abrogation of Sunday as a weekly holiday, and limitation of missionary work, life for Christians as well as Christian workers became intolerably precarious.


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