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Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror Hardcover – March 17, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307377237
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307377234
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Book Description
From the author of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim comes an important book, unlike any other, that looks at the crisis in Darfur within the context of the history of Sudan and examines the world’s response to that crisis.

In Saviors and Survivors, Mahmood Mamdani explains how the conflict in Darfur began as a civil war (1987—89) between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the south, triggered by a severe drought that had expanded the Sahara Desert by more than sixty miles in forty years; how British colonial officials had artificially tribalized Darfur, dividing its population into “native” and “settler” tribes and creating homelands for the former at the expense of the latter; how the war intensified in the 1990s when the Sudanese government tried unsuccessfully to address the problem by creating homelands for tribes without any. The involvement of opposition parties gave rise in 2003 to two rebel movements, leading to a brutal insurgency and a horrific counterinsurgency–but not to genocide, as the West has declared.

Mamdani also explains how the Cold War exacerbated the twenty-year civil war in neighboring Chad, creating a confrontation between Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) that spilled over into Darfur and militarized the fighting. By 2003, the war involved national, regional, and global forces, including the powerful Western lobby, who now saw it as part of the War on Terror and called for a military invasion dressed up as “humanitarian intervention.”

Incisive and authoritative, Saviors and Survivors will radically alter our understanding of the crisis in Darfur.

Amazon Exclusive: Mahmood Mamdani on Saviors and Survivors

Saviors and Survivors invites the reader to rethink the lesson of Rwanda in light of Darfur. It is a warning to those who would act first and understand later.

Part One discusses the nature of Save Darfur advocacy. Like the War on Terror from which it has borrowed its assumptions and coordinates, Save Darfur has turned into a lavishly funded and massive ad campaign spreading and sustaining a lethal illusion, consistently exaggerating the level of mortality and racializing the reasons for it. Why has Save Darfur not lost credibility even though its information is increasingly divorced from reality? A part of the answer lies in its ability to turn activism around Darfur into a domestic "feel good" issue while obscuring the context of the violence in Darfur.

Part Two of the book explains this context, starting with correcting the widely-held assumption that Arab tribes of Sudan are settlers from the Middle East, when they actually comprise local tribes that adopted the Arabic language and identity in the course of forming local states. The book locates the roots of the current conflict in colonialism, ecology, and the Cold War: colonialism introduced into Darfur a system of local discrimination based on tribal identity; an ongoing ecological crisis has led to the expansion of the Sahara by a hundred kilometers in four decades, igniting a conflict between nomadic and peasant tribes over fertile land in the mountains of the south; and, finally, the Cold War confrontation in Chad between Gaddafi (with Soviet support) and the Reagan administration (allied with France and Israel) spilled over into Darfur and militarized the conflict.

Part Three explains the Darfur crisis. Rather than a willful attempt by the government to eliminate particular groups--genocide--the present phase of the conflict stems from a land-based ecological confrontation at the local level and a struggle for power at the central level, exacerbated by the ongoing War on Terror. The urgent need today is not to punish those responsible for the mass killings of 2003-04 but to arrive at a political solution that will reform the land system in Darfur and political power in Sudan.

(Photo © Elena Seibert)

From Publishers Weekly

Mamdani (Good Muslim, Bad Muslim) continues to challenge political and intellectual orthodoxies in his latest book, a bold, near brilliant re-examination of the conflict in Darfur. While acknowledging the horrendous violence committed in the region, Mamdani contends that Darfur is not the site of genocide but rather a site where the language of genocide has been used as an instrument. The author believes that the war on terror provided an international political context in which the perpetrators of violence in Darfur could be categorized as Arabs seeking to eradicate black Africans in the region. Challenging these racial distinctions, Mamdani traces the history of Sudan and the origins of the current conflict back past the 10th century to demonstrate how the divide between Arab and non-Arab ethnic groups is political rather than racial in nature. The author persuasively argues that the conflict in Darfur is a political problem, with a historical basis, requiring a political solution—facilitated not by the U.N. or a global community but rather by the African Union and other African states. The book's introductory and closing chapters are essential reading for those interested in the topic. (Mar.)
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Customer Reviews

Yet the author continues to use terms like 'Negroid'.
Darrell Turner
As inadequately as I have characterized it, this is a "must read" book for liberals and radicals.
Charles S. Fisher
While studying Darfur in my master's thesis, I was tired of reading biased books and essays.
M. BAYRAM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Armando-Malwani on April 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book follows Prof. Mamdani's landmark article "The Politics of Naming: Genocide, Civil War, Insurgency" which appeared in the london review of books of March 2007. The author is an expert on african post colonial political history and international relations. The media and political elites of all sides of the political spectrum in the west have focused keenly on Darfur and continues to present an oversimplified narrative that seems to characterize its complex dynamics within rather narrow parameters defined by such diverse realities or perceptions such as the west's guilt over Rwanada, 19th century slavery in america, 20th century race relations in the US, cosmic battles between good and evil and missionary zeal, genuine concern for human rights, excuse to engage in exploiting sudanese resources etc. The reaction in america to Darfur has spurned the strangest bedfellows. The congressional black caucus and the republican party see eye to eye on Darfur. Despite the very real suffering of people in Darfur, the concerns expressed in the west which range from genuine to thinly veiled hypocracy and many are truly left without the proper context to the dynamics of the conflict and the accuracy and geopolitical implications of naming such a conflict as genocide. This book fills that urgent need and provides the historic and contemporary geopolitical perspective on the conflict and analyzes the international reaction to the Darfur crisis. Again kudos to Prof. Mamdani for this eye opener. This book should be a must read for anyone seriously needing to understand not only the conflict in Darfur, but also the politics of humanitarian intervention, post colonial african politics, consequences of climate change etc.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By S. J. D. Schwartzstein on May 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
For anyone interested in the situation in Darfur (or, indeed, Sudan) Saviors and Survivors is must reading. Mahmood Mamdani's extensive research and fine scholarship are impressive. His work is particularly valuable in addressing the question of whether what is taking place in Darfur is, indeed, as claimed by many, genocide - and he shows, convincingly, that it is not. Moreover, he shows that the highly-emotional claims by organizations such as "Save Darfur" have misrepresented both the nature and magnitude of the conflict; nor is not simply a matter of "Arabs" killing "Africans." That is not to say that Mamdani treats lightly the conflict or dismisses reports of atrocities. But he makes the important point that the conflict (or, more properly, conflicts) cannot be understood - and hence addressed - without understanding their nature and the various contexts, including historical and regional in which they take place.

Mamdani shows clearly that the conflict is, fundamentally, civil war, but not one in which the various factions are easily categorized - most certainly not easily grouped as "Arab" or "African." In this mix there are groups rebelling against the authority of the government in Khartoum, just as there are government-supporting factions and government involvement. (In contrasting the civil war in Sudan with what he terms a "liberation war against a foreign occupation" in Iraq, however, Mamdani surprisingly errs, as the conflict in Iraq, too, is complex, with most of the casualties due to conflict between Iraqis, not the American occupation.)

The question of when (or if) foreign interventions - military and/or humanitarian -are appropriate (as well as feasible) is a difficult one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Fisher on December 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The last two sentences of the book summarize what is a very radical thesis for good liberals and their desire to stop genocide in the world. "More than anything else, `the responsibility to protect' is a right to punish but without being held accountable--a clarion call for the recolonization of `failed' states in Africa. In its present form, the call for justice is really a slogan that masks a big power agenda in Africa." Mamdani distinguishes between the justice of the victor and that of the victim. The former punishes losers, for possibly real crimes. It is a victor's vengeance. The latter seeks an avenue of reconciliation: being able to abide unpunished crimes with the goal of living together in the future.

Even though I follow the news rather closely the Sudan and Darfur are nothing like what I imagined them to be. To the extent they were in my consciousness I saw the government and its Janjaweed henchmen as perpetrators and Dafurees and Southern Christians as victims, the former of camel riding killers supported by radical Arab or Islamic fundamentalist villains. It is so much more complicated, that I find it hard to tease out all the various actors and their roles in the ongoing drama. It is as complicated as medieval East Indian history, the ethnic groups, their flavors of religion, multitudes of kinds of rulers and social organizations, on top of which are a series of outside political influences which waxed and waned. From Darfur being the source of slaves into the 20th century, to British and Egyptian imperialism retribalizing the country after it was somewhat united by the Mahdi.
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