Michael E. Marmura Lectures in Arabic Studies 2023-24: Nisrin Elamin

When and Where

Friday, February 16, 2024 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
JHB 318
Jackman Humanities Building (170 St. George St., Toronto)


Nisrin Elamin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies, University of Toronto


Gulf Capital, Deficient Deserts and Property-making in central Sudan

The Michael E. Marmura Lectures in Arabic Studies 2023-24 presents "Gulf Capital, Deficient Deserts and Property-making in central Sudan" on Friday, February 16, 2024 at 2 PM (Eastern Time: US and Canada).

In the agricultural Gezira region of central Sudan, the term khalla means open land or expanse and refers to communal land that is partly used for grazing animals or rain-fed farming; what is often referred to as ‘the commons.’ Beginning with the provocation that the khalla is “running away from us” due to large-scale land investments and agribusiness practices, this talk takes up the khalla as method (Khayyat 2022), repository and medium through which to trace and analyse how past and emergent forms of capital accumulation and empire-making, structure everyday life at the edge of the Gezira scheme. It draws on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s (1988) insight that landscapes testify to the layering of successive forms of colonial intrusion in a way that unites time. In telling the history of the region through the khalla, this talk lays out some of the ways people have negotiated and contested these intrusions, constructing an archive in the process that testifies not only to waves of dispossession and destruction, but also to processes of recovery and regeneration. The khalla gathers archives that are central to interrogating and rethinking the concept of “property,” precisely because it constitutes a peripheral zone that does not inherently conform to forms of boundedness and demarcation that are often inherent to notions of property. While the khalla may be running away, it also persists in a way that prevents property from becoming a totalizing concept, allowing us to ask: What does and does not belong to the khalla? If “belonging often exceeds ownership” as Sullivan et al. argue, then what is the relationship between property and belonging? How can these questions and archives open up new ways of understanding the history and present of land dispossession and empire-making?  

Nisrin Elamin is currently an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University in 2020. She is currently writing a book tentatively titled: Stratified Enclosures: Land, Capital and Empire-making in central Sudan which focuses on Saudi and Emirati land grabs and community resistance to land dispossession in the Gezira region of Sudan. In addition to scholarly articles, Nisrin has also published several op-eds for Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, Okay Africa and the Egypt Independent. Before pursuing her Ph.D., Nisrin spent over a decade working as an educator, community organizer and researcher in the US and Tanzania.

Zoom Registration: https://utoronto.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUlduuqrDwqGNEkXfQ5DYbmHf9vLF...

* See the event poster: PDF icon2023.24.5.marmura_elamin.pdf