Lifeworlds in Crisis

Making Refugees in the Chad–Sudan Borderlands

Part of the African Arguments series
February 2024 9781911723226 392pp
EU Customers


The continuing Darfur War has caused mass displacement since 2003, with hundreds of thousands driven from their homes and many forced into refugee camps in western Sudan and neighbouring Chad. Building on twenty years of research in the region, Andrea Behrends tracks the repercussions of this conflict—sometimes referred to as the ‘first genocide of the twenty-first century’—for those living through it: those who stayed put, those who fled from rural areas to towns, those who moved to refugee camps, and those who fought. Telling the story of everyday survival on the Chad–Sudan border, an area central to state politics in the larger region, her account sheds light on how people create belonging, exchange knowledge, develop new practices and build futures in the face of extreme uncertainty.

Departing from the focus on large-scale humanitarian and military interventions associated with ‘states of emergency’, Behrends highlights the forms of cooperation and mutual knowledge production that emerge on the ground in these lifeworlds in crisis. She combines meticulous ethnographic description with theoretically grounded arguments to offer a pioneering study of how individuals have anticipated, survived and adapted to recurring crises and war in one of the world’s most economically marginalised regions.


‘This scholarly book discusses the Chadian crisis, exploring topics such as war, security, displacement and mineral resources. With intelligence and empathy, Andrea Behrends offers us a vision of what it is to live in a world in crisis.’ — Fatou Sow, Professor of Sociology, Cheikh Anta Diop University

Lifeworlds in Crisis reveals the lives of people in refugee camps in Sudan and Chad through the objective, informed eye of an anthropologist. A masterly book that deconstructs the myths of humanitarian interventions in Africa.’ — Babacar Fall, Professor of History, Cheikh Anta Diop University

‘While most refugee scholars study those who left, Behrends listens to those who stay. This book offers a unique window into a world that is constantly threatened by war—a magnificent analysis of lifeworlds at the lower end of global capitalist hierarchies.’ — Joël Glasman, Professor in African History, University of Bayreuth

‘As the regions that Behrends scrutinises in this book are once again in turmoil, the fate of thousands of people driven from their homes at stake, from a Chadian perspective, this is a poignantly topical and invaluable book.’ — Remadji Hoinathy, anthropologist and researcher, Institute for Security Studies


Andrea Behrends is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Leipzig. Focussing on African issues, she has previously taught at universities in Bayreuth, Berlin, Vienna, Halle (Saale) and Hamburg. Alongside colleagues from Chad, she continues to work on human categorisation and belonging, displacement and aid, resource extraction, datafication and activism.

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