Strangers in Strange Lands: A MEmorial for The Lost Boys of Sudan*

The Lost Boys of the Sudan, their parents, sisters, and cousins, are unlikely to have a physical museum constructed in their memory and as witness to the genoicidal acts their people have endured. Where would it be located? Who would fund such a project? Who would visit it? If a museum were to be constructed, North Dakota, the Peace Garden State, an arid, flat, but very cold state now home to an estimated 450 Sudanese would be as likely a location as any. But North Dakota is the least visited state in the U.S. and only one museum is widely known, The Roger Maris Museum.

  • "The MEmorial is initiated in a[n] . . . immediately practical way by means of peripheral monument. Peripheral monuments, like their computer counterparts, add functionality to an established memorial" (Gregory Ulmer, Electronic Monuments 46).

This web-based MEmorial for the Lost Boys of the Sudan functions as a peripheral, or what Ulmer sometimes calls an asterisk, to The Roger Maris Museum located in West Acres Mall, Fargo North Dakota. The functionality of The Roger Maris Museum and his personal story is enhanced by this relationship; these divergent yet parallel stories testify to the power of community, the cliché "against all odds," and the layers of sacrifice deeply embedded in these stories. Strangers in Strange Lands, and electronic monumentality in general, is enhanced by the Maris Museum's keen sense of the civic role of memorialization. Maris resisted the idea of a museum in his honor, but finally said, “Put it where people will see it, and where they won’t have to pay for it.”

  • "A MEmorial witnesses (monitors) a disaster in progress" (Ulmer EM xxvii). The "Internet makes it possible for monumentality to become a primary site of self-knowledge both individual and collective, and hence a site supporting a new politics and ethics, as well as a new dimension of education. Electronic monumentality provides the basis for a virtual public sphere capable of producing public policy decisions that take into account the dromosphere. The MEmorial makes it possible for the monumentality to go 'live'" (xxi).

Strangers in Strange Lands remembers the violence of southern Sudan, witnesses the genocide in western Sudan, known as the Dafur region, but also provides testimony verifying the ongoing challenges faced by the Sudanese refugees who have been re-settled in the United States, including more than 40 who arrived in Fargo, ND in 2001, those who have arrived since, and the approximately 4,000 spread throughout the U.S.. This MEmorial attempts to treat Marshall McLuhan's notion of "the global village" not as a signifier for global telecommunications, but as a lived reality, one in which the people of Fargo and other towns and cities and states can choose to be actively involved with the people of Sudan. We can continue to support the Sudanese in our communities, we can remind our U.S. representatives of their scores in support of Sudan, and we can ask them to do more. As global citizens, we are all passively linked; as global e-gents, we have many spaces or places in which may try to act; as educators, we have new genres and practices relevant to electracy that we need to explore and co-invent with our students.

  • "The MEmorial remembers that our values are conflicted, structured by inescapable contradictions" (245).

Every time we attend to sports, to museums, to entertainment, we ought also to challenge ourselves to attend to and witness the genocide, violence, and poverty of the global village. Even the inspirational story of Roger Maris, which has been put to productive use by the Roger Maris Cancer Center, is part of the Society of Spectacle which distracts us from genocides and injustices. In assembling this MEmorial, I continue to delay and distract myself from social action, but hope to use the tools of electracy to engage myself in this particular EmerAgency--the Sudanese conflicts and the Sudanese resettlement challenges--and engage others either in this same cause, or this process of discovery, MEmorializing, and becoming e-gents contributing to a new civic sphere.