After having watched the documentary The Lost Boys of Sudan, I was able to gain a number of insights, as to what can be considered the actual significance of the featured individuals (such as Peter and Santino) having been brought to the U.S. and set on the path of pursuing the ‘American dream’. These insights can be outlined as follows:
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a) The relocation to the U.S. did not have much on effect on the essentially ‘tribal’ workings of the mentioned individuals’ psyche. The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to one of the documentary’s initial scenes, in which Santino states: “When I get to America, I will still think about our Dinka culture… I will still remember our Dinka ways” (00.12.25).
What it means is that the very manner, in which Santino tends to assess the surrounding social reality, is fundamentally inconsistent with the assumption (upon which the U.S. immigration policy continues to be based) that one’s willingness to immigrate to the U.S. presupposes the concerned person’s readiness to adopt the identity of an ‘American’, as someone emotionally comfortable with the notion of cosmopolitanism/secularism.
b) The emigration to America resulted in increasing the acuteness of the featured characters’ sense of an existential inadequateness. To confirm the full soundness of this statement, we can well refer to the scene, in which Santino expresses his uneasiness with the fact that, as compared to the rest of the African-Americans, he is much too dark: “I’m so black…
The Black people that are native to this land are little bit brown” (00.22.11). This, of course, will have a negative effect on these people’s chances to attain a social prominence in America. After all, those who are being little too preoccupied with reflecting on the color of their skin, can hardly be considered open-minded enough, to be able to succeed in the racial ‘melting pot’ of the U.S.
c) Despite the fact that many of the featured young Sudanese express their willingness to receive a good education, it is rather unlikely that they will be able to succeed in this. The reason for this is that, as the documentary implies, these people tend to refer to the notion of education in terms of an object (00.38.46), whereas, this notion is best discussed in terms of a process.
Apparently, Peter and Santino believed that, after having been provided with free money and free housing, as the subjects of the USRP program, they would also be able to become thoroughly educated, without having to apply much of an effort, in this respect. The sheer counter-productiveness of this way of thinking is quite obvious.
What adds to the validity of this suggestion even more is the fact that, as it can be well inferred from the documentary, the characters’ act implies that their rate of IQ is rather low – something that can hardly be considered an ‘asset’, within the context of how a particular individual pursues the ‘American dream’.
In light of the above-stated, it appears that the Sudanese refugees of interest cannot be referred to as ‘serial migrants’ (Ossman 10). The reason for this is that, according to Ossman, the term ‘serial migrant’ is synonymous to the term ‘cosmopolitan’: “One (a serial migrant) must progressively engage the various selves that one is, has been, or might yet become” (13). That is, a ‘serial migrant’ is necessarily someone who does not consider the particulars of its ethno-cultural affiliation, as such that define the sense of his or her self-identity.
This implies that there are two preconditions for just about anyone to be qualified as a ‘serial immigrant’ – the individual’s ability to operate with abstract categories (in this respect, one’s high rate of IQ is a must) and his or her willingness to apply a will-powered effort, when it comes to suppressing its tribalistic anxieties. However, the documentary The Lost Boys of Sudan suggests that the concerned Sudanese refugees had none of it.
It is not only that the, throughout of their stay in America, they have not grown mentally detached from their initial perception of themselves as the members of the Dinka-tribe, but such their perception appears to have grown even stronger. Partially, this can be explained by the fact that, while in America, these people were encouraged (by Whites) to celebrate their ethic uniqueness, as something that has the value of a ‘thing in itself’.
It would also prove inappropriate referring to the Sudanese refugees, as individuals capable of acquiring the sense of a ‘flexible citizenship’, in the sense of how Ong views it.
The rationale behind this suggestion is that, according to Ong, one’s ability to act as a ‘flexible citizen’ is reflective of his or her talent in taking advantage of the process of Globalization, as such presupposes the populations’ increased mobility: “In their quest to accumulate capital and social prestige in the global arena… (‘flexible citizens’)… are regulated by, practices favoring flexibility, mobility, and repositioning in relation to markets” (449).
Nevertheless, one’s endowment with the essentially tribal mentality, naturally causes the concerned individual to go about addressing life-challenges in the manner consistent with what accounts with his or her foremost strength, in this respect – namely, the fact that the tribally-minded individuals are naturally predisposed towards perceiving the notion of ‘solidarity’ in terms of the greatest virtue ever.
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What it means is that, in order for individuals like Peter and Santino to be able to make a fortune, while in America (this what the ‘American dream’ is all about), they will need to adopt a racially-solidaristic lifestyle, quite inconsistent with the idea of a cross-national mobility, as the tool of empowerment. The fact that, as it can be seen in the documentary, it is only when they socialize with each other that the newly arrived Sudanese refuges feel at ease, confirms the validity of this suggestion.
Therefore, it would the most discursively appropriate to refer to the featured individuals as the ‘cannon-meat of Globalization’, in the sense that, after having tasted a ‘good life’ in the U.S., they would be willing to be sent back to Sudan to promote the ‘cause of democracy’ there – in exchange for being able to eventually qualify for the U.S. full-citizenship.
This explains the discursive significance of one of the documentary’s final scenes, which features the gathering of the Sudanese refugees who chant: “We are still fighting and we won’t give up! We will fight for Sudan! You (the Sudanese Muslims) will be shot by AK-47’s!” (01.03.28).
Apparently, the reason why these people were allowed to come to the U.S., in the first place, is not because they represent much of a value, as the potentially productive citizens, but because they can help the cause of the U.S. trying to ensure its continual dominance in the international arena of geopolitics – pure and simple.
Lusk, Jeniece. “The Lost Boys of Sudan.” Online video clip. YouTube. 2014. Web. 13 May. 2014.
Ong, Aihwa. “’Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality’ and ‘Afterword: An Anthropology of Transnationality’.” The Transnational Studies Reader : Intersections and Innovations. Eds. Sanjeev Khagram and Peggy Levitt. New York : Routledge, 2008. 446-454. Print.
Ossman, Susan. Moving Matters: Paths of Serial Migration. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013. Print.