Gender & Colonialism. A History of Kaoko (north-western Namibia) between the 1870s and the 1950s

Rizzo, Lorena. Gender & Colonialism. A History of Kaoko (north-western Namibia) between the 1870s and the 1950s. 2010, Doctoral Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

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The dissertation reconstructs the socio-economic history of a former colonial reserve in today Namibia between the late 19th and first half of the 20th century. Conceptually the thesis uses gender as an analytical category to highlight the transformation of African societies gradually placed under colonial rule. The first part of the thesis, entitled Gender & Conflict, is concerned with the expansion of raiding economies in southern Africa since the late 18th century. By the 1860s the repercussions of the capitalized economies of the Cape began to be felt in north-western Namibia, and Kaoko experienced the incursion of socalled Oorlam commandos, with dramatic effects on the local economy and society. The chapter explores the spatial parameters and vectors of trade, the circulation of commodities and the various agents involved in cattle raiding, commercial hunting and in the traffic with arms and ammunition. Based on archival sources and on oral knowledge this first part traces how a situation of war and conflict caused by the expansion of a disruptive economic system throughout Namibia reframed gender identities and gender relations. Part II, Gender & Counter Insurgency, discusses the period of military occupation of Kaoko by the South African colonial troops taking over from the German colonial administration after World War I. As the thesis shows, the military intrusion coincided with a period of significant changes of the demographic and political constellations in the region. Substantial immigrations from southern Angola into the area and the dislocation of various communities due to increasing pressures on ecological, economic and social security facilitated the establishment of South African military presence and bolstered the emergence of a specific form of male centered political power. The period of military invasion was followed by the gradual establishment of colonial administrative structures addressed in part III of the thesis, Gender & Containment. The 1920s and 30s saw the creation of a stable territorial entity, the Kaokoveld reserve, the socalled pacification and settlement of African communities, and the implementation of indirect rule. These interventions reconfigured gendered access to resources, among them most importantly livestock and land, they continued to enforce the predominance of male elites in the political arena and sustainably pushed women to the margins of a colonial society in the making. Part IV, Gender & Colonial Law, deepens this argument with an analysis of colonial law as an arena of socio-political conflict resolution. Using the empirical example of a case of poaching and murder in 1928, this chapter illustrates how the fabrication of a legal case, the identification of perpetrators, victims and offenses echoed and at times camouflaged negotiations of power and of gender relations – within the local society and between colonizers and colonized. In a similar vein part V, Gender & the Technologies of Empire, recovers the multilayered and manifold significances of colonial interventions on the ground. Discussing two major inoculation campaigns (against lungsickness) in Kaoko in the late 1930s, this chapter argues that while the campaigns officially aimed at disease management and at the development of the regional livestock economy, inoculation became a vehicle through which the colonial administration established control in the region for good. It was eventually the ultimate colonial subjugation which paved the way for an uncanny development in Kaoko’s past with long-lasting implications. After World War II, the period addressed in the last chapter of the thesis, Gender & Visuality, Kaoko and its African population was gradually transformed into a consumption asset for the southern African settler societies. The commodification of the region within a specific symbolic and ideological economy, in which the idea of a modern, industrialized «white» southern Africa contrasted an idealized vision of «Africa untamed» is interpreted in the thesis against the policies of isolation and encapsulation of the late 1930s onwards. Within the vision of Kaoko as an example of genuine Africa, women were given a particular role, i.e. as cultural markers of tradition, of domesticity and of rural life. Visual representation and visual narratives were fundamental for the discursive codification of gender, an argument which is elaborated throughout this chapter based on the analysis of colonial photography in the region between the late 19th and the mid 20th century.
Abbildung:National Archives of Namibia (NAN), No. 2984, «Woman with child (Herero), on donkey», photographer: Heinz Roth, 1951.
Advisors:Harries, Patrick
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Geschichte > Ehemalige Einheiten Geschichte > Geschichte Afrikas (Harries)
UniBasel Contributors:Harries, Patrick
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis Subtype:Doctoral Thesis
Thesis status:Complete
Last Modified:05 Apr 2018 17:39
Deposited On:06 Feb 2018 11:28

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