Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

Abbreviations

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgements

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pp. ix-xiv

To the visitor who arrives with an interest in people, rather than in vacationing, landscapes and animals, Namibia is a fascinating country. While investigating practices and backgrounds of Nama traditional communities in southern Namibia during the 1990s, I inevitably became aware of annual commemorations observed by people there, as well as the similar practices of Ovaherero communities in the centre of the country. Within the context of my earlier 1990s research project, I made my first forays towards a better...

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Introduction: A Special Postcolonial and Transnational Relationship

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pp. 1-10

Ever since Namibia attained independence in 1990, her relations with Germany have been marked by intensity, close cooperation and heated debate. The latter revolves largely around the 30 year period from 1884 up to 1915, when today’s Namibia was known as the colony of German South West Africa. For the last decade, an asymmetrical debate on colonial mass crime has been a prominent feature of memory politics. In this debate, the first genocide of the 20th Century, committed by German colonial troops during the Namibian War of 1903–081, forms the central axis....

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Part I - The Burden of History

To some, ‘history’ seems to have a value of its own to be cherished and venerated; others may bemoan the millstone of the past that pulls them down. In between, countless shades reflect various forms of engagement with, or denial of and self-distancing from the past. Such sentiments take on a particular problematic when we have to deal with a ‘dire past’, one that is not readily elevated into heritage to be paraded and looked at with pride and some nostalgia. When history involves crime and suffering, a strategy of repressing,...

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1. Namibia’s Century of Colonialism – a Fragmented Past in an Unequal Society

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pp. 13-48

Independence cannot be expected to obliterate a nation’s colonial past with one stroke. Namibia is certainly a case in point. For slightly more than a century after the commencement of formal colonial rule in 1884, the country experienced particularly harsh colonial rule under two consecutive colonising powers. The effects of this experience are uneven over Namibia’s vast and unevenly populated territory. The forms of anti-colonial resistance that went with colonial rule, from its beginning until its end in 1990, also varied greatly....

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2. Germany: From Late Coloniser to First Postcolonial Nation to Postcolonial Amnesia

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pp. 49-78

One of the basic givens in memory politics between Namibia and Germany is the stark contrast between the amount of attention accorded to Germany in Namibia and conversely, to Namibia in the German public realm. While the former is lively and reflected in an almost continual presence in the media, the latter appears scant in comparison. For most Germans, Namibia figures, if at all, as a tourist destination or to provide scenery for trashy soap operas on TV. Namibia does not register as the site of a genocide for which...

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3. The First Genocide of the 20th Century and the Holocaust: Structural Parallels – Discursive Continuities?

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pp. 79-98

The year 1884 marks a turning point in African history, the Berlin Conference. It also signals the onset of the formal colonisation of what was to become German South West Africa, today Namibia. Much less attention has been given to the consequences such colonial engagement had for Germany herself. According to recent analysis, the swift, if limited, colonial expansion of the Empire that followed, mainly in Africa, amounted to a fundamental change in the ‘Empire’s political character’, its turn towards expansionism...

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4. Namibia’s Germany:Transnational Implications of Settler Colonialism

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pp. 99-116

The long process of memory politics between Namibia and Germany revolves around two central issues. One is the presence of a German speaking community in Namibia, while the other is the country’s past as a former German colony. The two aspects are closely interrelated, but they need to be treated separately if we want to understand the current situation. In this chapter, therefore, I shall give an overview of the background of German speakers in Namibia, which is set against constructions of ‘Germany’ and ‘Germans’ by...

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5. The Namibian Connection in Denialism

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pp. 117-146

The transnational dimension of the postcolonial relationship that exists between Namibia and Germany is multi-faceted. One of these aspects – not necessarily the most publicised – concerns us here in particular: the ways in which denialist views regarding the colonial genocide are aired and exchanged among interested groups and individuals. This chapter is not only concerned with providing insight into these networks, but following the vacillating arguments also requires an understanding of the...

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6. The Windhoek Rider: Contested Terrain, Multiple Meanings

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pp. 147-168

Whether as the pre-independence logo of the South West Breweries, as a prevalent bumper sticker, or an almost ubiquitous motif on picture postcards, the Windhoek Rider (Reiterdenkmal, aka Equestrian statue) has been a symbol of central importance for the German presence in the south-west of Africa since its erection in 1912. This fact emerged clearly from responses when the memorial was demolished in late 2013. The German presence in Namibia has undergone far-reaching shifts in its social and political...

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Part II - Community, Commemoration and Performance

Namibia’s painful and complex history of colonialism, resistance and liberation struggle has resulted in a specific mode of contested memory, even where such contests remain implicit. One of the main issues concerns the meaning of the Namibian War. For some time, the hegemonic, post-independence narrative has privileged the experience of the liberation war over the earlier movements of primary anti-colonial resistance. Along with this, the official narrative has placed a clear emphasis on exile and the military aspects...

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7. Communal Reconstruction and Subaltern Traditions

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pp. 171-186

As described previously (in chs 1 & 5), the Namibian War resulted in large-scale destruction not only of the lives of many, but in some cases even of a majority, of the communities that had put up resistance against colonialism. Ensuing colonial legislation also was aimed at the strategic destruction of the very foundations on which the survivors might have attempted to rebuild and continue communal life. In particular, this destruction...

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8. Constructing and Claiming Identities and Spaces: Commemorations in Southern and Central Namibia

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pp. 187-228

To the casual observer, it may appear somewhat startling to see widespread memory practices across central and southern Namibia relating to events from more than a century ago. It seems that in other African states and regions, public memory relates much less to such early colonial experience, and as previously noted, in Namibia the northern regions differ markedly in this respect from the central and southern regions. The same is true of the prevailing official rendering of the history of anti-colonial resistance and the...

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9. Beyond a Fragmented Image of History

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pp. 229-238

One dimension of communal commemorations in central and southern Namibia involves giving voice to the often unheard and unremembered from the struggles. Most often, these were anti-colonial struggles. At the Bondelswarts commemoration held late in 2008 in Warmbad, these issues materialised with particular clarity. It is worthwhile to recall here what happened....

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Part III - Apology, Restitution & Reparation: The Challenge of Postcolonial Reconciliation

Namibian memory politics and commemoration practices are situated within a postcolonial framework. The postcolonial nexus between Namibia and Germany only came to the fore once colonial rule in Namibia had at last been terminated and the country had achieved its independence on March 21, 1990. This event marked not only the end of more than a century of foreign rule and simultaneously the beginning of majority rule,...

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10. A Mute Conversation: The Rise of the Reparations Issue

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pp. 241-254

Namibian independence created fresh opportunities for Namibians to address a past that to some extent had been silenced, but certainly not overcome or forgotten. Independence meant new opportunities of ‘voice’, of raising claims and eventually, forging alliances. Above all, independence also brought new avenues of engaging Germany about the colonial past and the genocide. In this chapter, I give a brief account of these early endeavours and the consequent frustrations, and then dwell on the reparations issue, particularly...

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11. Half an Apology – Political Re-Alignments

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pp. 255-280

When German Foreign Minister Fischer went on record in Windhoek that there would not be an apology that might give grounds for reparations, his words were blunt and not very diplomatic. One might even have called the statement uncouth. However, this pronouncement set the tone for much of what was to come in Namibian–German memory politics during the ensuing months and years – even though these developments were not without their sudden and surprising turns. The most celebrated of these turns was the...

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12. The Saga of the Skulls: Restitution Without Recognition

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pp. 281-324

The process of recognition and reconciliation that apparently got under way in 2004 soon was stuck at an impasse. As demonstrated in the previous chapter, this impasse had been building up all along because the German Government had never contemplated a full apology for the colonial genocide. Besides the recognition and the naming of injustice and crimes committed, an apology would have implied acknowledgement of responsibility for redress and dialogue. For at least a decade, this need has been articulated in the call for a...

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Conclusion: Perspectives in the Long Aftermath of Genocide

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pp. 325-338

The past is never quite past – even less so with a dire past when closure proves elusive. On account of these features, the continued presence of the past and the elusiveness of closure, this book also ends on an inconclusive note. Still, some inferences can be drawn. Such insights relate to difficulties and contradictions inherent in postcolonial and transnational memory politics, and to ways memory contents have been transmitted and actualised. A further inference concerns the diverse strategies and goals of governments and non-state actors....

Glossary

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pp. 339-342

Bibliography

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pp. 343-376

Index

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pp. 377-385

About the author / About the cover photograph

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pp. 386-386

Back cover

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