The Khartoum Student Seminar Series and the invasion of the NGOs

I thought I would write a brief post about the Khartoum Student Seminar. Check out our upcoming presentations (I am next!):
So far we have had four presentations and I think they all have been pretty successful. Originally it was supposed to be a student-only affair but in recent weeks, we have opened our gates to NGO folk. 
It is interesting having them come…
For one thing, they have forgotten “how to be students”. It is kind of funny. I didn’t realized how much academia tames you, or maybe intimidates you into silence during question sessions. The NGO people are not afraid to speak their mind and it sometimes gets pretty difficult trying to chair! A bit like a panto, but better than a silent audience. 
It is also nice to have them join because they encourage us to be more policy-minded. There seems to be a disconnect between research and policy. At the last Sudanese Studies conference, I don’t remember meeting a single non-academic. What is the point of researching Sudan’s social and economic issues if your research doesn’t get listened to by policy-makers? Is it all an exercise in theory-making? No! 
Of course, the communication should be two-way. It is easy to slip into idealism or conversely, over- criticism when you are far from the action. Despite flaws and ideological bias (as my presentation on Tuesday will attest), we do need to be somewhat sympathetic to policy-makers working on the issues. They have hard jobs and have to grapple with these concepts on a day-to-day basis. 
In short, it has been great to have them along!
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