Given Names and Lived Closeness

Kinship Measurement in the South Sudanese Citizenship Office

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  • 1 Researcher, Small Arms Survey/The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland and Lecturer, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Eötvös Loránd Science University, Budapest, Hungary

Immediately after the independence of South Sudan in 2011, a nationality law was passed that defined citizenship by membership to clearly defined and bounded ethnic groups. To acquire citizenship, the testimony of a ‘next of kin’, taken to be an ‘older blood relative from the father’s line’, was supposed to verify ethnicity and, thus, belonging to the new nation. Citizenship offices were tasked with checking names and assessing life histories. In so doing, they combined the logic of patrilineal names with estimations of lived closeness, creating a complex system of measuring kinship. Based on colonial legacies and methods acquired during the Sudanese civil war, kinship measurements produced new relations, but also fueled ethnic tensions and cemented social inequalities.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology


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