Christian Joseph Doll

Postdoctoral Teaching ScholarSociologyAnthropology

Picture of Christian Joseph Doll


My research explores the dynamics of state-imagining and utopian urban planning in the contemporary moment of state erasure and contested sovereignty. My dissertation, based on ethnographic research conducted since 2012 in South Sudan, focuses on the ways South Sudanese people imagine and attempt to bring about the South Sudanese state. Focusing on South Sudan’s capital city, Juba, and looking at urban spatial politics, state performances, alternative infrastructures, large-scale official planning, and "informal" economic schemes, I argue that ideas of the future, rather than a sense of dread or failure, drive everyday action in Juba and throughout South Sudan. My study of South Sudan’s fraught “post-state state making” process offers an ethnographically rich and globally relevant understanding of the politics and futures that emerge and proliferate in a world where territorial sovereignty is in question yet the state idea continues to permeate everyday life. My account of the emergence of the world’s newest state offers a vital understanding of contemporary postcoloniality and a sustained critique of normative, neoliberal and humanitarian frameworks (such as the "failed state" paradigm) that flatten the complexity of life and politics in conflict-affected contexts. My research bridges work on sovereignty, on the state as a cultural order and hegemonic effect, on urban space, on interventional development and humanitarian governance, and on hope and futurity in the face of precarity.

Teaching and Research Interests

  • Anthropology of Africa
  • Political Anthropology, the State, and State-Making
  • Urban Space and Place-Making
  • Futurity and Temporality
  • Migration and Mobilities
  • Revolution and Post-Liberation Politics
  • Visual Anthropology


I am currently engaged in two collaborative research projects. One is focused on a locally-run money-transfer network that spans northern and eastern Africa that is run and used by waraffected and displaced South Sudanese ( It uses the money transfer network to understand the ongoing creation of community and the forging of generative alternative infrastructures in urban Africa. My other ongoing research project extends my collaboration with Ugandan artist and art-therapist Okuja Vincent. It explores his visual representations of contemporary South Sudan and northern Uganda and explores his art therapy initiatives among youth impacted by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Uganda.


Naseem Badiey and Christian Doll (2018) “Planning Amidst Precarity: Utopian Imaginings in South Sudan,” The Journal of Eastern African Studies, 12(2): 367-385. [] also in Urban Africa and Violent Conflict Edited by Karen Büscher, Routledge (2019)

Christian Doll (in press) “Improvising Juba: Productive Precarity, ‘Companies,’ and Making the Present at the Edge of the Indian Ocean World,” in Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds, Edited by Smriti Srinivas, Bettina Ng’weno, and Neelima Jeychandran, Routledge

Naseem Badiey and Christian Doll (forthcoming) “Returning, Remaining, and Remaking: Urban Space in Post-conflict Transition,” SLUM Lab No. 11 (Forced) Migration Issue

Christian J. Doll (under revision) “Sovereignty from ‘Ground Zero’: Power through Performance in Independent South Sudan,” Cultural Anthropology

Christian J. Doll (under revision) “How Thöŋ Piny Became Juba Na Bari: Placemaking and Social Memory in Urban South Sudan”


  • PhD in Anthropology from University of California, Davis, 2019
  • MA in Social Sciences from University of Chicago, 2007
  • BA in Sociology from University of Sociology, 2006