Concluding the previous entry, we introduced the idea of the renewal of the cooperation between Sudan and Bergen in the frame of archival practices and related works.
There are three levels of commentary to this idea:
This is a new type of activity for the University of Bergen and its library, as well as for the study of Sudan history, given the treasures of information that can be gathered by working on such material.
The huge logistical support needed for such a project was offered by the Norwegian Embassy in Sudan. It is our sincere hope that similar channels can be used to expand the digitalization projects to such collections as the National Records’ Office with the already referred to long-standing tradition of cooperation with the University of Bergen. In fact, ustaz Ali Karar participated in the second point of today’s entry.
It was the anthropologist Fredrik Barth, professor at the University of Bergen, who first conducted fieldwork in Sudan in the early 1960s. He brought along his student Gunnar Haaland, nowadays emeritus at UiB. His wife, Randi Haaland, emeritus too since last year, was among the first to introduce the cooperations on the field of archaeology, a cooperation that she still keeps up by supervising the doctoral thesis of one of the most gifted young Sudanese archaeologists, Mahmoud Suleiman. Since then, many people have joined forces in the various projects and it is hoped that many more will have the chance to do so in the future. During the celebrations in Khartoum in September, it was indeed announced that a ‘Sudan scholarship’ will be awarded to a Sudanese student of social anthropology to come to Bergen and work for six months. The Christian Michelsen Institute has surely the milieu that it takes to welcome such a student. But technically speaking, the CMI is not UiB. Is UiB and AHKR taking care of its Sudanological milieu for the future?
3. This would be the third level of commentary and here we will have to be a bit more critical, because the reality on the ground seems rather different.
– Among all the ‘big names’ of Sudan studies in UiB (Barth, the Haalands, O’Fahey, Pierce etc.), only Bjørkelo still has an active teaching position and even he will be retired in less than two years.
– No successor whatsoever has managed to profile himself or herself as the hope for continuation of Sudan studies at AHKR and only recently did Alexandros’ application for a post-doctoral position at the Institute ended on the second place.
– The archive of the Fontes Historiae Nubiorum will remain disconnected from the archive of Arabic manuscripts on Sudan or the Mahmoud Salih collection, since the opportunity to create an archive on medieval Nubia, which was one of the aims of Alexandros’ project, will not materialize.
– The ‘Atbara Junction Programme’ did not get any support from the Norwegian Embassy for writing proposals as was hoped and need to find other channels for funding.
– And so, if the exhibition on ‘Sudan Archaeology and the Nile at Bergen’ takes place, it risks to appear as an obituary rather than as a jubilee.
What worries us most, is that this does not seem to be only a situation affecting Bergen. But if Bergen ‘falls’, then there is little to hope for the future in the context of the financial realities from which Norway seems to stand out as an exception and it could provide the perfect premises for a center of excellency on Sudan Studies.