Dr Diana Felix da Costa
Diana is a social anthropologist whose research interests have taken her to use visual and sonic arts to analyse social processes and changes in the context of her research in the Murle area of Greater Pibor in eastern South Sudan. Her work is highly inter-disciplinary and she has a PhD in Development Studies from SOAS, and previous degrees in social anthropology and development studies. She has combined professional experience in academia, think-tanks, international organisations and NGOs, and has worked primarily in South Sudan and neighbouring countries carrying out research in contexts of conflict and its aftermath, learning about how people make sense of and find strategies to cope with violence and difficult circumstances.
She is currently a British Academy postdoctoral fellow in the School of Arts at SOAS. Her current research examines visual, musical and performative culture as the lens through which to better understand changes in social institutions and in young people's positions in society in the Murle area of Greater Pibor in eastern South Sudan, where she has been working since 2012. She is particularly interested in the ways in which society becomes inscribed upon the body and through the body, and how this relates to identities and sub-identities. As part of her ongoing research, and in collaboration with friends from Pibor, she recently launched a website on Murle cultural heritage www.murleheritage.com that is intended to offer a space for learning about Murle tangible and intangible cultural heritage, and a space to hold a conversation about these in an accessible way.
At SOAS, she supervises MSc student dissertations in the Department of Development Studies and is also involved in mentoring South Sudanese researchers through different channels, at SOAS and elsewhere.
Diana's current work examines Murle visual, musical and performative culture as the lens through which to better understand young people's positions in eastern South Sudan, and how the very important social institutions of age-sets have been changing. In particular her research looks at ‘body-as-art’, or body-through-art and as art practice, and how young people have been incorporating new symbols and images of power and modernity (ranging from AK-47s, military ranks, watches, pens, boreholes, the US dollar sign, the United Nations acronym, etc) into traditional scarification practices to express identities and sub-identities, and their hopes and aspirations, and how these also reflect the fragmentation and militarisation of age-sets in society. She is currently working on a book examining how Murle age-sets have been tranforming in light of decades of conflict, militarisation and displacement, examined through the lens of scarification practices, age-set songs and performance. Under a SOAS Impact & Knowledge Exchange grant, Diana is also organising a multi-sited photo exhibition on youth, age-sets and changing scarification practices in Juba and in Pibor, South Sudan.