This research project will:
1. Produce rigorous and interdisciplinary research to enhance our understanding of human dignity during crises, paying attention to the role played by courts in governing hunger and human dignity.
Notions of human dignity are part of normative and cosmological frameworks that are remade, contested and naturalised over time. Humanitarians, academics and policymakers have failed to give attention to the way that laws, courts and other legal mechanisms shape these social and cosmological norms even during a crisis, and the role that local courts can have in protecting or undermining human welfare and dignity. Plus, extreme hunger is almost always a result of armed conflicts and political decisions. Yet, families of the hungry are often held responsible. It is unclear how socio-legal norms shape the attributing of accountability and shame for hunger. Our research will draw understandings of these dynamics from ordinary people and from daily experiences of courts in South Sudan.
2. Produce research that sheds light on how people survived the 2017 famines.
In 2017, the UN declared famines in four countries including South Sudan. While this has been well covered in media reporting and high-level policy discussions, there is a vacuum of ethnographic work that helps us understand the lived and everyday experiences of this famine and the way that hunger was governed at this time. While we know that people died, we have a lack of understanding about how people managed to survive, and if and how they were able to preserve human dignity.
3. Support policy makers and practitioners to respond in South Sudan and beyond.
South Sudan was the first place where famine was declared in 2017 and still, in 2021, South Sudanese are again facing severe, and in some places famine-level, hunger. 1.8 million people are severely food insecure, with as many as 11,000 people at famine-levels now and 31,000 people projected to be at famine-levels of food insecurity from April 2021. Areas of particular concern include clusters of people in Tonj North County (Warrap State), Pibor County (Pibor Administrative Area), Aweil South (Northern Bahr el Ghaza) and Akobo County (Jonglei State). A focus on influencing humanitarian policy and practice is embedded in this project from the outset, and outputs will include policy briefings and memos to ensure the timely dissemination of information.
4. Promote collaborative scholarship.
A significant aim of this project is to ensure that outputs are collaboratively authored, and that all researchers participate in the design, implementation and analysis of the project outcomes. This will not only help the quality of the analysis and outcomes but will also build on ongoing support through the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa and CPAID, through the Safety of Strangers project, to support to early career South Sudanese scholars.