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ROADSIDE COMFORTS: TRUCK STOPS ON THE FORTY DAYS ROAD IN WESTERN SUDAN

  • Kurt Beck

Abstract

This contribution examines the truck stop on the desert track known as the Forty Days Road that connects the Sudanese capital with Darfur and the regions beyond. The truck stop is represented as the main roadside institution to regulate roadside sociality, channel the relationships between travelling and roadside folk, and generally mediate between residents and strangers. On the one hand, it serves as a gateway to small-town Sudan and the hinterland, providing the social infrastructure for the commercial flow of trucks, commodities and passengers as well as for the flow of news and fashions. On the other hand, by catering for the needs of passing truck drivers and other travellers, it operates as a safe haven. It provides shelter in the most comprehensive sense of the word and thus constitutes a protected place for recovering from the pains of travelling. At the same time, however, these roadside practices of brokerage and hospitality also serve the resident society of small-town Sudan as a means to keep the travelling strangers safely apart in a circumscribed domain and, thus, keep the influences from the road in quarantine.

Cette contribution examine le relais routier situé sur la piste qui relie la capitale soudanaise au Darfur et au-delà, connue sous le nom de Forty Days Road. Ce relais est représenté comme la principale institution de bord de route à réguler la socialité en bord de route, à canaliser les relations entre les itinérants et les locaux, et de manière générale à assurer la médiation entre les résidents et les étrangers. D'une part, il sert de passerelle avec la province et l'arrière-pays, fournissant l'infrastructure sociale au flux commercial de camions, marchandises et passagers, ainsi qu’à la circulation des nouvelles et de la mode. D'autre part, en pourvoyant aux besoins des camionneurs de passage et autres voyageurs, il fait office de refuge. Il fournit un abri au sens le plus large du mot et constitue par conséquent un lieu protégé pour se remettre des maux du voyage. Dans le même temps, cependant, ces pratiques de courtage et d'hospitalité en bord de route sont utiles à la société provinciale résidente, comme moyen de garder les étrangers de passage bien à l’écart dans un domaine circonscrit et, ce faisant, de conserver les influences de la route en quarantaine.

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