Sudanese-New World migration: The social history of Sudanese international migration to the United States and Canada

Date of Completion

January 1994


Anthropology, Cultural




This study concentrates on the social history of Sudanese international migration to the United States and Canada. Previous studies undertaken on Sudanese migratory phenomena were primarily concerned with migration to oil-rich Arab countries (i.e. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates), this study is the first attempt to investigate Sudanese New World migration, and in specific the new waves of Sudanese migration to the US and Canada since the Gulf war of 1991 and the renewal of the civil war in the Sudan in 1989. The basic hypothesis of this research is that an earlier, small temporary migration from the Sudan to the New World, based principally (but not exclusively) on seeking higher education has been replaced by a newer, larger migration stemming from political unrest, economic stringency and a new lack of choice in migration. This latter group, of recent Sudanese arrivals, it is hypothesized, are characterized by diverse socioeconomic histories, more selective demographic differentials, fewer fundamental alternatives, and subsequent different adjustments to New World life, than earlier migrants. The study seeks to provide empirical evidence on Sudanese migration to North America by investigating three major questions: (1) Who are the migrants and from where do they come? (2) What are the reasons prompting their migration to the US and Canada? (3) How are they adapting to living in North America? The research utilized the classical anthropological methods of structured questionnaires, collection of life histories, in-depth interviews of key informants, and the examination of published and unpublished documentary sources.^ The most significant picture emerging from this research is that, apart from the early Sudanese migratory movement since World War II, and that of Sudanese students from the 1960s the bulk of Sudanese international migrants are very recent arrivals in the New World. Their migration was an outcome of the totality of contextual and structural variables associated with politics, war and religion prompting Sudanese with diverse ethnicity, religious affiliations and migration biographies to leave for the New World. Consequently, Sudanese migrants presently are a less monolithic group than earlier migrants. It is noticeable that not only significant differentiation's exist with respect to their selective characteristics, but also with respect to their status in the New World (i.e. students, refugees, asylees, citizens, permanent residents and diplomats). Previously, most migrants were students (and some are an unique early migrant community in Brooklyn). It follows that today both legal and illegal migrants have dramatically altered the past pattern, character, culture and shape of Sudanese international migration. Moreover, the magnitude of Sudanese migratory movements is dramatically increasing. As a consequence of the variables associated with politics and war, the country has also experienced a pronounced exodus of its most industrious segments of its manpower. These complex and peculiar push factors are analyzed in Sudan, and along with the classical pull factors of the New World migration, are compared with similar data characterizing other migrant communities. ^