"But They Can't Manage to Silence Us:" Mahjoub Sharif’s Prison Poem “A Homesick Sparrow” (1990) as Resistance to Political Confinement


  • Enrico Ille LOST Research GroupInstitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology University of Halle




Sudanese Poetry, Cultural Policy, Political Islam, Public Spaces, Political Prisoners


This article discusses the poem "A Homesick Sparrow" by the Sudanese poet Mahjoub Sharif (1948-2014) in the frame of recent cultural policies in Sudan. The poem was written in 1990, one year after the military coup that brought the present regime to power, while the poet was imprisoned together with others regarded as oppositionists to the new Islamist government. It reflects not only a specific, critical positioning against contemporary political events, but can be read in the context of a long-term, often harsh negotiation of the modalities of public appearances and utterances in Sudan. In this sense, the poetic language and the way it was brought outside the prison walls are understood here as a performative act of political resistance against governmental attempts of peripheralization vis-à-vis cultural policies aiming at homogenization and centralization through political Islam.


Enrico Ille, LOST Research GroupInstitute of Social and Cultural Anthropology University of Halle

has a doctoral degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Halle. After holding positions as Assistant Professor at the Martin-Luther University of Halle and Ahfad University for Women, Khartoum, he is currently an independent researcher as a member of the Law, Organization, Science and Technology (LOST) Research Group. He co-edited the volume Emerging Orders in the Sudans (with Sandra Calkins and Richard Rottenburg, Langaa 2014) and published a number of journal and book articles on the Nuba Mountains, discussing history, land issues and political economy, as well as development initiatives for agricultural production and water supply. He also edited an annotated bibliography of social research on the Nuba Mountains (Chr. Michelsen Institute, forthcoming). Recently, his research focus has shifted to the relation of state institutions, commercial companies and communities in gold mining and food supply chains throughout Sudan.





Ille, E. „‚But They Can’t Manage to Silence Us:‘ Mahjoub Sharif’s Prison Poem “A Homesick Sparrow” (1990) As Resistance to Political Confinement“. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Bd. 5, November 2015, S. 117-30, doi:10.17192/meta.2015.5.3520.



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