WP2. Comparative Indigenous Perspectives in Etosha-Kunene

While WP1 analyses official environmental policies for Etosha-Kunene conservation territories, WP2 addresses indigenous perspectives for these same areas, focusing especially on experiences and narratives of mobility and place. In WP2 we acknowledge Article 13.1 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which states that,

Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations
their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures,
and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

Whilst sensitive to ethical and intellectual property dimensions of UNDRIP Article 13.1, in WP2 we aim for an iterative process of documenting and communicating knowledges regarding place, in combination with indigenous philosophies of ‘nature’ associated with Etosha-Kunene conservation territories.

We are currently finalising two book chapters that address these concerns:

- 'Hai||om in Etosha: Being-in-relations and “cultural maps”',
by Ute Dieckmann

- 'Densities of meaning in west Namibian landscapes: genealogies, ancestral agencies, and healing',
by Sian Sullivan and Welhemina Suro Ganuses

Both chapters will be published as a section in Dieckmann, U. (ed.) 2020 Mapping the Unmappable? Cartographic Explorations with Indigenous Peoples in Africa. Bielefeld: Transcript.


For WP2 we deploy two main research methods:

  1. on-site oral history as a means of ‘cultural landscape mapping’, through walking and working with especially elderly members of Hai||om, Dama / ≠Nūkhoen, ||Ubun and Himba-Herero to collate and document childhood memories of places of past significance.
    This dimension of our research builds on and combines preliminary work with Khoekhoegowab-speaking peoples in Etosha-Kunene: especially Etosha Hai||om and Damara / ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun to the west of Etosha.

    This cultural mapping research praxis involves ‘walking the tracks of the past even in the present’ to draw out ‘the erasure of earlier histories in assessments of the present’ and fill ‘the present with the traces of earlier interactions and events’ (Tsing 2014: 13; also Ingold & Vergunst 2008). As such, it can revitalise knowledges, practices and experiences occluded in formal territorial designations associated with species and habitat protection (de Certeau 2010: 24; Tsing 2005: 81);

  2. paying ethnographic attention to differing ways of knowing the beyond-human entities comprising Etosha-Kunene natures. Our intention here is to more fully recognise and understand the possibility of heterodox understandings of natures-beyond-the-human and the complexity conferred by specific situated interactions of human / beyond-human agencies. For preliminary explorations and proof of concept, see Sullivan (2017) and Hannis & Sullivan (2018) with Kaoko ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun, also Widlok (2018) with Nyae Nyae Ju|’hoansi.

    Here we affirm the cultural and historical particularity of natural history observation and objectification (explored in WP5) so as to be alert to the possibility of varied ontological differences in knowing Etosha-Kunene natures that may have relevance for both conservation and livelihoods (cf. Marks 1984; Kohn 2013). As part of this exploration we seek to facilitate small group discussions involving varied participants, where perspectives and realities might be shared and better understood. 


Proposed milestones, outputs and personnel:
This work package will be conducted by the full academic team and again will be an iterative process throughout the duration of the project. We have also costed in specialist cartographic assistance to help us create online interactive maps, as well as printed maps, for data emerging from the on-site oral histories / cultural landscapes mapping dimension of this WP. Our primary outputs will be:


  1. a series of interactive online and printed maps;

  2. peer reviewed articles focusing, for example, on:
    i. deep mapping of remembered places and spaces of mobility for indigenous Hai||om, Dama / ≠Nūkhoen, ||Ubun and Himba-Herero – target journal Cultural Geography;
    ii. juxtaposition of ontological tendencies regarding human-with-beyond-human-natures – target journal Environmental Humanities.


De Certeau, M. 2010 Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. by B. Massumi, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hannis, M. & Sullivan, S. 2018 Relationality, reciprocity and flourishing in an African landscape, pp. 279-296 in Hartman, L.M. (ed.) That All May Flourish: Comparative Religious Environmental Ethics. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ingold, T. & Vergunst, J.L. 2008 Ways of Walking. London: Routledge.

Kohn, E. 2013 How Forests Think: Towards an Anthropology of Nature Beyond the Human. Berkeley: California University Press.

Marks, S. 1984 The Imperial Lion: Human Dimensions of Wildlife Management in Central Africa. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Sullivan, S. 2017 What’s ontology got to do with it? On nature and knowledge in a political ecology of ‘the green economy’. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 217-242.

Tsing, A.L. 2005 Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Tsing, A.L. 2014 Wreckage and recovery: four papers exploring the nature of nature. AURA Working Papers vol. 2 (Arhus University), pp. 2-15.
Widlok, T. 2018 Lions and flies forager-animal situations, pp. 203-220 in Breyer, T. & Widlok, T. (eds.) The Situationality of Human-animal Relations. New York: Columbia UP.

[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf


Damara / ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun https://www.futurepasts.net/journey-mapping

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​© 2020 Etosha-Kunene Histories

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