This article follows the attempts of Sudan’s Mahdist rulers between 1881 and 1898 to establish a military, political, and cultural foothold in the Nuba Mountains, a region now close to the southern border of Sudan and historically a mountainous retreat area. These attempts started with talks held between religious authorities in the kingdom of Tegali and Muḥammad Aḥmad before he declared himself to be the Mahdī. This exchange of arguments initiated complex relations between the Mahdist regime and the population of the Nuba Mountains, relations that, for the most part, were characterized by violence and oppression but were also permeated by persuasion and cooperation. The article aims at providing a description of these relations, based on a review of available documents from the period. In conclusion, the author highlights the point that a focus on the actions of people usually regarded as peripheral, based on the perspective of supraregional power elites, can raise important questions on the modalities of political and cultural self-determination in specific times and places and also challenge generalized narratives of historical developments as clashes between powerful cultures defined as self-contained, mutually hostile blocs.

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