|Abstract: ||The subject of the study entitled How to survive in an African city? A human in
the face of borderlineness and urbanisation in Juba, South Sudan is the spontaneous
city spreading process of Juba, the capital of South Sudan. But, the viewpoint
taken while describing the phenomenon in question is the one of daily activities
of an average human being, who in this particular case is a recent urban migrant.
All the factographic data come from the series of ethnographic research conducted
in Juba, South Sudan in the years 2007—2008.
Adapting to the new environment is a fundamental matter for every migrant.
It is not an easy task. For this very city is characterized by extremely harsh living
conditions. There is not enough water supply and no sewage system, not mentioning
the electricity. The drastic price increase results from the underdeveloped public
transport infrastructure and, what is more, the migrants of various ethnic and
cultural origins, usually intertwined with traditionalism and conservatism, add to
the picture. This kind of melting pot makes the majority of city-dwellers feel alienated.
What is even worse, the already tensed atmosphere is overlapped by manifold
traumatic war experiences. From our perspective, Juba is a dysfunctional city.
Colloquially, it could be called a safe haven or even a strongbox, that is the place
where for now one has the greatest chance to survive in the post-war South Sudan.
Therefore, it reminds more of a refugee camp than a city. In spite of difficulties
piling up in front of them, newcomers try to familiarize the hostile surroundings
by finding a job and, as far as possible, turning their flats into places to
live, conceptualizing the landscape, organizing their time, facing the loneliness
and alienation, to blend into surroundings. In short, they struggle to survive, and
concurrently, try to definitively cut away the past of the urban migrant or repatriated
refugee. For the inhabitants, family is the value of utmost importance in coping
with everyday problems. It is one of family’s basic tasks. For that reason it is
structured in a particular way, mostly as a nuclear family, but frequently also temporarily
extended to the closest relatives. The structure of family is formed to
a high degree by manufacturing capacities of its members, hence in the city’s reality
one cannot forget to generate income. It is in family where genetically different
cultural traditions (African, Islamic and Christian) blend and unite into one,
which makes them indistinguishable from one another. One of the institutions that clearly illustrate this situation is marriage, where the dialogue between various
traditions, between the “old” and the “new” reality, is perfectly visible. The
influx of alien elements is not in a least seen as hostile. Quite the contrary, we
can observe the tendency to express cosmopolitism through that which is local.
The social hierarchy in the city is characterized by mutual dependence of
diverse social groups. Never before has the life in the city depended so much on
a cooperation and the engagement in generating income of each member of a family.
The phenomenon manifests itself on every level of social identification. In
the entire Africa, the voluntary association of a different kind have become an
answer to the structural crisis. On the continent, social groups such as women
and children acquire the significance. Their role increase in importance, especially
economically. Concurrently, this growing importance is not followed by the improvement
in the poor social status of those groups, since there are still excluded
and discriminated against. Generally, the citizen of Juba copes with her/his financial
problems similarly to inhabitants of other African cities. Apart from having
a full-time job to earn indispensable money, in order to balance the family budget,
she/he has to also be engaged — more often than not, in the same time — in many
informal extra jobs (small businesses, producing and selling food, trans-border
trade). Frequently, all members of a family participate in such a activities. Thus,
diversification of the income sources is a universal strategy. Every member of a city-
living family (male or female, including the youngest) is engaged in both formal
and informal ways of earning money. No one is economically useless.
Citizens of Juba help themselves by seeking economic connections with neighboring
African cities. Those appear to be especially financially gratifying. An inhabitant
of African city to thrive has to be extremely active spatially — and be not
only to cross the border of her/his own neighborhood but also to leave her/his hometown.
Obviously, huge significance of the practice of that kind stems from the
closeness of the country border. Ex-refugees are the leaders of trans-border contacts.
Those people are actual intermediaries between Sudan and neighbor countries.
By their mobility their transmit the new cultures, elements of democracy
and free-market economy. It is a very useful knowledge in terms of nowadays
The ethnicity of Juba is naturally pertained to certain dimensions of reality
(e.g. politics, culture), for which it seems important and overemphasized. In other
dimensions it seems marginalized or even hidden. The city creates new identifications,
but also sustains, reproduces and strengthens the old ones. Ethnicity is dynamic
and appears more and more relative — it is based on the situation of an individual,
her/his needs in the urban environment. But essentially, the city is
a place with no ethnicity at all, it peculiarity stems form this fact.
What is formed in the city are the new, broader identifications. Firstly, their
bond is the war-time wandering. Fundamental cultural transformations are triggered
by the emigration. Those changes are visible regardless of the social origin of
an observer. The Sudan conflict had the features of a religious war. Among others,
it has lead to kidnapping religion by politics, and exercising the “friend — foe” categories.
The results of this are palpable in the post-war Juba — the city of cultures
and conflicts. Religion seems there a pivot of national identity, which is dra-matically visible in the city’s Muslin community. Creed is used by both Christians
and Muslims to erase the ethnicity. It rests as a kind of umbrella opened over the
heads of people representing different ethnicities, giving a chance to adjust easily
to the city’s community. The religion of the greatest importance is Christianity. It
treated as a natural source of the city culture, its plays as well as secular rituals.
One cannot also forget about the significance of various Christian churches for
common man facing everyday difficulties. Facilitating the initial stage of her/his
city life, when the individual is in the most urgent need of help. In this sense, the
Christian churches of Juba are a kind of bridge between the village and the city.
Thus, despite the difficulties, the city’s development is visible, which stems
more from the bottom-up initiative of the common individuals than this of the local
authorities. Juba is a world tediously built by the hands of its inhabitants. Its
shape and size reflect their ambitions and abilities. The phenomenon of borderlineness
— the closeness of the country’s border — appears to be helpful in this process.
It influences the effectiveness of the citizens’ activities, it is an answer to the
spontaneous city spreading processes — it brings danger, but most of all, infinite