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"Weave of prior work" – Etosha-Kunene Histories publishes new report

Updated: Aug 17, 2022

The Etosha-Kunene Histories research project has just published a "Special Report" entitled Etosha-Kunene Histories: A Weave of Prior Work – Entangled and Contested Pasts, Lands and 'Natures' in Post-Colonial Namibia.

Led by Namibian social anthropologist Dr Elsemi Olwage, the report offers a fresh overview and synthesis of the prior work of the project's lead investigators. This work stretches back over three decades, and underscores the Etosha-Kunene Histories project.

Fresh eye

In embarking on this new collaborative project we realised it would be helpful to us for a fresh eye to read through our prior work and help us to articulate the ‘weave’ more clearly between it. Commissioning the report was also partly a response to COVID-19 travel restrictions which meant that the field research components of the project had to be delayed, freeing up time for more review work.

In working on this review Elsemi Olwage read across and reviewed around 95 publications by the three of us (Ute Dieckmann, Selma Lendelvo and Sian Sullivan). Elsemi identified four main themes that emerged through this process, namely:

  1. Colonialism, science and the state in the historical making of Etosha-Kunene;

  2. Changing and contested land-relations and tenure in Etosha-Kunene;

  3. Innovation in conservation and environmental management: between global discourses, policy, and local practices;

  4. Knowing Etosha-Kunene’s post-colonial ‘natures’: relationality, ontology, and biocultural ethics


The report abstract reads as follows:

"This report presents a weave of prior work produced by the principal investigators of the Etosha-Kunene Histories project, funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council and the German Research Foundation. It brings together key points of convergence and thematic overlaps between their work and creates a generative and interdisciplinary dialogue on Etosha-Kunene’s complex and entangled pasts, lands and ‘natures’. Broadly speaking, this report explores the contributions of the three authors to understanding Etosha-Kunene’s overlapping colonial and social histories of settlement, land, conservation and indigeneity. In doing so it considers changing livelihoods and land-relations, and the diversity of resource use, management and knowledge practices which co-constitute the past and present of Etosha-Kunene’s ‘cultures’ and ‘natures’. The report thus reads across their work to provide insight into the historical processes, changing policy and legal mechanisms, and colonial and global discourses which have shaped Etosha-Kunene’s emerging socio-materialities, and contributed to hegemonic ways of imagining, valuing, and knowing ‘nature’. A focus here is on ‘African landscapes’ and dryland ecologies, and the ongoing and dialectical construction of cultural identities, ethnicity, and indigeneity. Their work argues for learning from locally-rooted and culturally-inflected land-relations, diverse tenure institutions, and Indigenous and gendered knowledge systems and values: both for conservation praxis and for informing environmental and land management debates. Lastly, the report explores their contribution to decolonising environmental knowledge and heritage management practices through an ongoing engagement with, and mapping of, ‘relational ontologies’, and of occluded social and cultural landscape histories."

Report Summary (29 pages) available here:

Download PDF • 4.16MB

Full report (129 pages) available here:

EKH Special Report 1 WEAVE OF PRIOR WORK Aug2022_compressed
Download PDF • 11.29MB

Elsemi Olwage

Dr Elsemi Olwage is a Namibian social anthropologist and researcher. She currently works on a freelance basis both in academia and consulting fields. Her research interests include urban and rural development, heritage, post-colonial identity and spatial politics, human-environment relations, and gender and human rights. Elsemi can be contacted via her LinkedIn profile here.

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