top of page

WP3. Making Identity and Indigeneity: Hai||om / ≠Nūkhoen / ||Ubun Identity / Identification
Ethnicity and ethnic identity play crucial roles in the everyday life of Namibians, despite efforts by the postcolonial government to downplay ethnicity and to ignore current marginalisation based on ethnic ascriptions.

            In WP3, we capitalise on the opportunity to bring together prior work by especially Dieckmann and Sullivan (see WP2) into a new conversation regarding how indigenous identities are made in Etosha-Kunene. Our respective in-depth and parallel research places us in a unique opportunity to draw into focus overlaps and intersections between Etosha Hai||om and Kaoko ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun (as observed ethnographically and historically by Möller in Rudner & Rudner 1974; Sullivan 2001; Dieckmann 2007; Schmidt 2011). Scholarly and popular anthropology alike, in combination with policy and donor structures, have tended to emphasise and empower distinctions and divisions between these groupings as ‘Bushmen’ and ‘Bergdama’ respectively. The context is complexified, however, by identity-switching along ethnic lines, as well as diverse perspectives on how Hai||om and ≠Nūkhoen differ and relate.

            WP3, then, makes a strongly theoretical as well as ethnographic contribution to theories of identity making. We seek to understand the shifting identity terrain specific to Etosha-Kunene in terms of how identity categories are constructed, negotiated, appropriated, realised and modified.

            We understand identity to be simultaneously the dynamic ‘effects of institutions, practices and discourses intersecting with multiple and diffuse points of origin’ (Butler 2006[1990]: xxxi, emphasis in original), as well as actively made, altered and instrumentalised by protagonists in relation to both contexts and ‘origins’. Specifically, we propose a Foucauldian ‘archaeological’ analysis (Foucault 1972) of identity discourses and categories regarding an array of distinct and intersecting ‘Khoe’ and ‘San’ identities, as these have become present and potent in ethnographic, linguistic, conservation, legal and daily discourses. We will draw on participant observation, literature review, oral histories, semi-structured interviews and facilitated conversations with various Hai||om, ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun individuals.


Proposed milestones, outputs and personnel:
WP3 will involve Dieckmann and Sullivan in particular, who aim for publication of a major co-authored theoretical-ethnographic paper in a high profile anthropology journal – target Current Anthropology.



Butler, J. 2006[1991] Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge.

Dieckman, U. 2007 Hai||om in the Etosha Region: A History of Colonial Settlement, Ethnicity and Nature Conservation. Basel: Basler Afrika Bibliographien.
Foucault, M. 1972 The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge.

Rudner, I. & Rudner, J. 1974(1899) Journey in Africa Through Angola, Ovampoland and Damaraland 1895-1896 by P. Möller. C. Struik: Cape Town.
Schmidt, S. 2011 Hai||om and !Xû Stories from North Namibia, Collected and Translated by Terttu Heikkinen (1934-1988). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.
Sullivan, S. 2001 Difference, identity and access to official discourses: Hai||om, ‘Bushmen’, and a recent Namibian ethnography. Anthropos 96: 179-192.

bottom of page