Faculty of Social Sciences

Celebrating 60 years of cooperation between Bergen and Sudan

On Wednesday, 8 March, the University of Bergen (UiB) organized an anniversary celebration of the academic collaboration between Bergen and Sudan. The celebration was held at the Department of Social Anthropology where the collaboration started 60 years ago.

Munzoul Assal, Leif Manger, Imadeldin E. Aradaib, Synnøve Kristine Nepstad Bendixsen, Gunnar Håland and Randi Håland were among those who were gathered to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Bergen-Sudan-collaboration at CMI and UiB on Wednesday.
Rolf Scott

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“I am happy to participate in the anniversary event at the department where I studied and obtained my PhD in 2003. The collaboration between Bergen and Khartoum started in 1963 and has continued since. In many ways, I am a product of this exemplary collaboration that we are celebrating today”, says Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Khartoum (UoK) and Professor II at UiB, Munzoul Assal.

He is one of the project managers of the new collaboration project Sudan-Norway Academic Cooperation (SNAC). This agreement ensures that UiB's collaboration with Sudan, which is one of UiB's most long-lasting international collaborations, will continue for years to come.

The 60-year-anniversary was kicked off on 8 March and will be celebrated in several different ways in Bergen and Khartoum during the year.

A growing collaboration

The collaboration between UoK and UiB started off in the field of social anthropology. In the 60s and 70s, it expanded to include other disciplines such as history, archaeology, philosophy, geography, botany, dentistry, medicine and psychology.

This led to a General Agreement between UoK and UiB that was signed in 1983. The agreement was the first of its kind at UiB and had a profound effect on UiB's international relations.

Since then, researchers in Sudan and Bergen have worked together in many different areas, forming close ties and friendships.

UoK Rector comes to Bergen

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary, Professor and UoK Rector Imadeldin E. Aradaib has been in Bergen this week to visit various academic communities that conduct research on Sudan.

Wednesday morning, he was at Chr. Michelsen's Institute (CMI) where he was given a tour of the Mahmoud Salih Collection by Alexandros Tsakos. He also attended the official opening of a new meeting room named after Professor Abdel Ghaffar M. Ahmed, who was the first to obtain a PhD at the Faculty of Social Sciences at UiB. The new meeting room is located in Bergen Global and will be a shared facility between CMI and UiB.

In the afternoon, the UoK Rector participated in UiB's anniversary celebration at the Department of Social Anthropology.

A number of emeritus professors with unique historical insight into the Norway-Sudan cooperation were present there as well, including Randi and Gunnar Håland, Gunnar Sørbø, Frode Storaas and Leif Manger.

  • In this almuni interview, Randi and Gunnar Håland describe the work they have conducted in Sudan.

Honored the pioneers

Professor and Head of the Department of Social Anthropology, Synnøve Kristine Nepstad Bendixsen, gave a few opening remarks where she, among other things, honored the late Professor Fredrik Barth who was one of the key pioneers behind UiB's cooperation with Sudan.

“In 1963/64, Barth served as Unesco professor of social anthropology at UoK - one of the best universities in Africa south of the Sahara at the time. Barth employed Gunnar Håland as his research assistant in Dafur, and worked to systematically involve students from the areas where fieldwork was carried out. In that process, he created institutional links to the relevant academic institutions in these areas”, said Bendixsen.

A new era for the Sudan collaboration

Professor Emeritus Leif Manger was actively involved in the Sudan collaboration from the mid-70s. He says that Frederik Barth, Gunnar Håland, Randi Håland and Gunnar Sørbø have been like teachers to him in many ways.

"They got me into the Sudan collaboration. Today, this collaboration is celebrated with a special focus on anthropology. A lot of Sudan research has been conducted in other fields as well, but it was here at the Department of Social Anthropology that it all started with Barth, and the anthropological research in Sudan has continued since then", says Manger.

"A new era starts now. All those who were key players in the earlier phases of the collaboration between Bergen and Sudan are now retired. A new generation of researchers, who completed their education during the period in which I was actively involved, are taking over", he says.

Assal took the opportunity thank some of the people who have upported him and his work at the Department of Social Anthropology and emphasized the importance of continuity in the Bergen-Sudan collaboration.

I would like to emphasize how important it is to have young researchers from Norway going to Sudan to do research and collaborate with their Sudanese colleagues.

“I would like to thank the department and the professors who made it possible for me to join the department twenty years ago: professors Gunnar Håland, Leif Manger, and current Head of department Professor Synnøve Bendixsen. I would also like to emphasize how important it is to have young researchers from Norway going to Sudan to do research and collaborate with their Sudanese colleagues. The overall goal of SNAC is to empower and equip universities throughout Sudan to play a vital role in addressing current challenges”, he said.

Aims to strengthen Sudanese research on Sudan

Liv Tønnessen at CMI leads SNAC together with Munzoul Assal. The two of them have known each other for almost two decades.

“I have collaborated with Munzoul Assal for 17 years. It is a pleasure to lead this project with him.”

She hopes SNAC will strengthen Sudanese research on Sudan.

“I want Sudanese researchers to participate in the international academic discourse about their own country to a greater extent than today. Another objective of the project is that the research should form the basis for policy-formulation in Sudan at a time where the country is in a politically and economically precarious situation.”

“In this project, we have a special focus on regional universities and marginalized groups such as female and younger researchers. We want to focus on these groups because they lag behind in the pursuit of research funds and publications, and they are often excluded from political decisions - despite the fact that they often serve as leading figures for popular uprising and revolution”, she says.

Assal believes SNAC will lead to many positive outcomes.

“SNAC will lead to outcomes such as increased research expertise, high quality research outputs, and strengthened communication and dialogue with key stakeholders. I would like to encourage our colleagues in Norway to visit Sudan and explore possibilities of joint collaborative projects”, he says.

Anniversary celebrations will continue

In Khartoum, a larger event will take place 16-18 October, where several other partners in Sudan will participate.

In addition, other events, exhibitions, and activities will be organized in Bergen this year. Information about this will be shared on UiB's anniversary page: 60 years of Sudan-Bergen cooperation