Dinka people

From Anarchy In Action

From Colin Ward, Anarchy in Action:

The Dinka are a people numbering some 900,000 living on the fringe of the central Nile basin in the Southern Sudan. (A correspondent of The Sunday Times remarked of them that 'touchiness, pride and reckless disobedience are their characteristic reaction towards authority'.) Godfrey Lienhardt's contribution to Tribes Without Rulers describes their intricately subdivided society and the very complicated inter-relation­ ships resulting from the fusion and fission of segments in different combinations for different economic and functional purposes.

It is a part of Dinka political theory that when a subtribe for some reason prospers and grows large, it tends to draw apart politically from the tribe of which it was a part and behave like a distinct tribe. The sections of a large subtribe similarly are thought to grow politically more distant from each other as they grow larger, so that a large and prosperous section of a sub tribe may break away from other sections . . , In the Dinka view, the tendency is always for their political segments, as for their agnatic genealogical segments, to grow apart from each other in the course of time and through the increase in population which they suppose time to


The Dinka explain their cellular sub-division with such phrases as 'It became too big, so it separated' and 'They were together long ago but now they have separated.' They value the unity of their tribes and descent groups but at the same time they value the feeling for autonomy in the component segments which lead to fragmentation, and Dr Lienhardt observes that 'these values of personal autonomy and of its

several sub-segments are from time to time in conflict'.

  1. John Middleton and David Tait (eds), Tribes without Rulers: Studies in African Segmentary Systems (London, 1958).