Internationally, the former regime under Omar Al Bashir had placed Sudan in a difficult financial position, creating multiple exchange rate regimes, chronic budget deficits and mounting debt. As the transitional government took office, it immediately came under pressure to remove fuel subsidies and to liberalise its exchange rate regime. In this way, the new government was pushed to prioritise economic policies over calls for a more radical social reckoning and forceful political change.
Western donors and foundations were also keen for the new government to place emphasis on poor and marginal communities, and to embrace new developmental technologies such as randomised control trials and digitally mediated cash transfer programmes. Such programs promise to generate legitimacy through de-politicisation, de-personalisation and quantification, reflecting a technocratic view of accountability, which places emphasis on proper accounting and technical competence. However, as anthropologists and sociologists have demonstrated, such ‘neutral’ and impersonal mechanisms can often rely on more personal processes to administer and can end up reproducing existing social biases. Furthermore, these legitimacy processes stand in contrast to more personal and politically explicit forms of accountability, such as the evocation of popular narratives and/or the display of government support during elections.
These conditions offer us the opportunity to better understand the role of external donors in shaping post-revolutionary transitions within a country’s moral and social structure. In essence, Sudan’s political transition depends on citizens believing that its class system – or the formal and informal means through which social stratification and mobility occur – is morally just.
The project will analyse attempts by different actors in the reform process to re-establish a belief in a moral social order, focussing on two areas of Sudanese policy-making chosen for their different class concerns: higher education policy and social protection. The project will seek to understand how technocratic perceptions of policy-making interact with moral beliefs about Sudan’s social structure, which have been promulgated and challenged by domestic political actors before, during and after the revolution.