Remapping Namaqualand: Negotiating Ethnicity and Territoriality in Colonial Southwestern Africa, Eighteenth-Twenty-First Centuries


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This project examines how African ideas about territory and ethnicity grew entangled and co- constitutive in an arid southwestern African region called Namaqualand, which straddles parts of today’s Namibia and South Africa. While extant scholarship largely assumes that German colonial, from 1885-1915, and then South African apartheid-era, from 1948-94, maps here principally reflected European imaginations of ethnic boundaries, this project tracks a longer-term African history of geographical thinking to address the African intellectual origins of coupling ethnic boundaries with territorial fixedness. Drawing on 20 months of oral history and archival research and using previously unexamined sources by African leaders in the Nama language, this dissertation demonstrates how processes of translation and negotiation about geography became central to producing new ethnic identities and land claims during a long colonial period in this southern African borderland.