Title: Sudan’s Tea Ladies and the Legacy of Slavery


Kurcz, Maciej

Date issued/created:


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Ethnologia Polona 40 (2019)


Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology Polish Academy of Sciences

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ill. ; 24 cm


This paper presents the institution of roadside mini-cafes run by women – mostly poor migrants from peripheral or war-torn regions of Sudan – on Forty Days Road Street, one of the main streets of Omdurman. These cafes are not only one of the many examples of women’s informal activism in an urban environment, but also an institution in which the legacy of slavery is present. This dates back to precolonial times when the peoples of the Nile valley were slave-raiding and slave-owning. The author looks at the institution of roadside mini-cafe as something particularly important for the urban iconography of power, in which – using the terms of structural anthropology – a series of oppositions are materialised: formal/ informal, male/female, dominant/subordinate and Middle Eastern/African. The relations to slavery hidden in this particular institution help city dwellers (mostly men from the Muslim majority and Arab culture) in arranging hierarchies, rivalry and legitimating status. Gender and informality are particularly meaningful in this context as both strengthen the situation of radical inequality, intensify and constitute politics of dominance on the one hand and of subordination on the other. This paper is based on ethnographic research which was undertaken in the Khartoum agglomeration in 2013.


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Ethnologia Polona



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oai:rcin.org.pl:98640 ; 0137-4079 ; doi:10.23858/EthP40.2019.014


IAiE PAN, call no. P 366 ; IAiE PAN, call no. P 367 ; IAiE PAN, call no. P 368 ; click here to follow the link




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Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Library of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences

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Operational Program Digital Poland, 2014-2020, Measure 2.3: Digital accessibility and usefulness of public sector information; funds from the European Regional Development Fund and national co-financing from the state budget. ; European Union. European Regional Development Fund

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Jan 10, 2020

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Dec 31, 2019

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