Alex profiled in Nov. 08 Harper’s
A young, NYC-based novelist, Nick McDonell, asked Alex (his former Harvard prof) if he could accompany him on his recent travels into Sudan. The upshot is a revealing portrait of Alex and his work, published in next month’s Harper’s Magazine: “The Activist: Alex de Waal among the war criminals.” NOTE: Harper’s subscription required.
In some sense, McDonell has written a tribute to Alex as teacher. So inspired was he by the stories Alex used to tell in his “The Politics of Humanitarian Emergencies in Africa” class–for instance, the one about the Rwandan MP who brought his pistol into the Chamber of Deputies–McDonell decided to head to Africa himself to research a book based on such stories. Eventually, he crossed paths with de Waal and asked if he could watch him at work. Alex agreed, inviting him to join a series of trips he had planned to help the African Union bring about a planned “Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation” among the region’s many warring factions.
McDonell soon discovered that telling amusing stories was a technique central to de Waal’s fieldwork. He also found out a lot about what makes an activist-scholar like Alex tick. Perhaps most helpfully of all, McDonell provides the context for understanding why Alex found it necessary to criticize the ICC’s chief prosecutor, Moreno Ocampo, for arresting Sudanese President Bashir on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, calling the ICC’s action a “coup de théí¢tre.”