Hibiscus with Ginger

On Activists and Audiences

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Last week, when I was tracking down a link for my last post, I came across this critique of high profile Sudan activists by a Sudanese blogger. This was largely in response to the discussion which occurred a few months ago centering around Alex De Waal’s piece on international activism. I found this section most relevant:

They are not interested in “us”, viz. those who they haven’t met “in a Workshop organized by the UN” prior to this event or had a discussion with “in the office of Yasir Arman” after that event.

They are not interested in informing us, not in convincing us, not in winning us, not even in using us

The issue addressed is one of audience and orientation—who and what are these activists advocating for? The author, I’d say, is correct that the orientation of most of these posts and discussions are aimed at an international audience, seeking to influence Western governments and negotiations by pressuring the political elite in and outside of Sudan. To that end, they want to be read by “experts,” not the average Sudanese person, or even Sudanese civil society activists.

The blogger’s audience is limited by the language in which she writes as well as her medium, since the internet isn’t easily accessible to everyone in Sudan. At the same time, her post underscores for me the gaps that exist throughout every society and the ways these divides are reflected online. What language do you write in? What subjects? Who feels like they should read you? Who do you want to speak to?

It isn’t that there’s a single “right” answer for these questions. But the issue of audience is worth considering, particularly when one is writing on a particular country or region. Who you are trying to reach and who you claim to represent matter. For the record, this blog is written with an international audience in mind, but it also wishes to be read and considered by Sudanese people—or at least those who read English and frequent the internet. One voice shouldn’t dominate an issue—it might give some insight into a situation, but it can’t monopolize all knowledge.



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