IIE Seminar: Dr Samer Abdelnour


a seminar room

In this seminar, Dr Samer Abdelnour from University of Edinburgh Business School will present a paper on “Indentured Servant to Market Actor: The Institutional Transformation of Darfur’s Untouchables”.

Dr Samer Abdelnour is a senior lecturer at University of Edinburgh Business School. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh Business School, he held posts at University College London and Rotterdam School of Management. His current research examines how enterprise and humanitarian technology interventions influence new forms of actors and organizing in complex institutional settings. This work draws on extensive fieldwork with former fighters in the Blue Nile, Sudan, on clean cookstove interventions in Darfur and elsewhere, and at enterprise start-up events in Marrakech, Morocco. It is also informed by ongoing conceptual work on the topic of actors, agency and institutions. A lot of this work tries to examine how social interventions seek to fundamentally change people’s actorhood, by encouraging new practices and identities.


In this paper, I explore the social transformation of the Hadaheed (metal workers, blacksmiths) in North Darfur from a low-caste, stigmatized group of indentured servants to a community of modern market actors with a degree of socioeconomic and political agency. I do so through a case study spanning four decades, 1970-2010. During this time, the blacksmiths were displaced by multiple armed conflicts, unsettling their relatively static marginalized societal position. This placed them into a current of dynamic institutional pressures resulting from climate degradation, civil violence, national politics and global development activity. Key to their social transformation was a relationship with a focus NGO partner. However, their success was not unproblematic as socioeconomic and political gains were not distributed equally amongst the group. This created immense inter-group disparities in wealth and opportunity, raising questions about development, globalization and inequality.