Economics as the Language of Decolonization: Sudanese Economists in the 1950s and 1960s

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 2:00 PM
Grand Hall D (Hyatt Regency Atlanta)
Alden Young, Drexel University
Marshalling the papers of the British Foreign Office, the personal papers of finance officials, and files from the National Records Office in Khartoum, I argue that the nature of inequality was dramatically altered in the decades after World War II, when economics replaced the civilizational discourse of indirect rule as the administrative language of decolonizing states such as Sudan.  By studying economic policymaking between 1945 and 1969, I prove that governance in Sudan was transformed from the management of a collection of distinct populations, each with its own attributes, to the management of a national economy made up of equal individuals, whose preferences policymakers assumed could be aggregated and even maximized.  In order to understand this transition, it is necessary to study the process by which economics became the governing logic of the state, and to recognize that economics as an administrative logic never traveled alone.  Indeed, this paper describes how economics was accompanied and given political significance by combining with concepts, such as territorial sovereignty, quantifiable development, society, and global citizenship. It ends with the establishment of economics in Sudan as an independent profession and Sudanese economists as global citizens, part of a cosmopolitan elite based in international organizations and multinational corporations.  I conclude by positing that economics became a universal language, because it held out the possibility of allowing unfettered transformation of a country’s financial and economic status in the world economy.  In practice, however, the rhetoric of economics in Sudan allowed a subordinate elite to rise to the unsteady pinnacle of state power, and finally to transform itself into global citizens.
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