Kings of Disaster

Dualism, Centralism and the Scapegoat King

in Southeastern Sudan

by Simon Simonse


Foreword by Mark Anspach


Fountain Publishers (paperback)

Michigan State University Press (ebook)


Available from: African Books | MSUP | Amazon


The long-awaited, revised and illustrated edition of an anthropological classic


"Simon Simonse’s Kings of Disaster is a monumental achievement. I believe it is the most important work on the long-mooted topic of divine kingship yet written, a book that brings the questions debated since the time of Sir James Frazer and Evans-Pritchard to a final, definitive resolution: everything from 'did Africans really kill their sacred kings?' to 'what is the real nature of the principle of sovereignty that still lies behind the bureaucratic forms of the modern nation-state?' The answers are never quite what we expected. If there is such a thing as progress in anthropology, and not just shifting fashion, then this book must stand as the starting-point for any future discussion on these topics."

David Graeber, London School of Economics, author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years and co-author of On Kings


"A major, original contribution to the comparative study of African political systems. It is a fascinating and rich work that deserves to be reissued... Excellent new foreword by Mark Anspach."

—J. Abbinck in Cahiers d'Études Africaines


"The ethnographic richness of this volume is astonishing: the author has ransacked archives, combed historical accounts, and carried out superb fieldwork himself... The volume offers a more unified vision of the region and of the problems raised by these kingdoms than the isolated monographs about these peoples written in the wake of Evans-Pritchard."

—Jean-Claude Muller, University of Montreal, author of Le Roi Bouc Emissaire


"The way that Simonse ties together the several cosmological threads of his book may leave readers thinking that they have just read the most important work on Nilotic religion since [Godfrey Lienhardt's] Divinity and Experience."

—Ryan Joseph O’Byrne, Journal of Religion in Africa


"It is impossible to overstate the achievement of this book. With an exemplary combination of empirical rigour and theoretical daring, Kings of Disaster transforms the landscape of African studies while forcing us to think in new ways about the origins of political power and the state."

From the Foreword by Mark Anspach 


Preview the contents of Kings of Disaster