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Imagining the Post-Apartheid State

Imagining the Post-Apartheid State: An Ethnographic Account of Namibia

John T. Friedman
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 324
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  • Book Info
    Imagining the Post-Apartheid State
    Book Description:

    In northwest Namibia, people's political imagination offers a powerful insight into the post-apartheid state. Based on extensive anthropological fieldwork, this book focuses on the former South African apartheid regime and the present democratic government; it compares the perceptions and practices of state and customary forms of judicial administration, reflects upon the historical trajectory of a chieftaincy dispute in relation to the rooting of state power and examines everyday forms of belonging in the independent Namibian State. By elucidating the State through a focus on the social, historical and cultural processes that help constitute it, this study helps chart new territory for anthropology, and it contributes an ethnographic perspective to a wider set of interdisciplinary debates on the State and state processes.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-091-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xii)

    • Chapter 1 Imagining States
      (pp. 3-27)

      At first reading, the title of this book is likely to arouse some scepticism. How is it possible for an anthropologist to present an ethnographic account of Namibia, of an entire country? As anthropologists we are accustomed to investigate the localised, the small-scale, the village community. We are specifists, not generalists. The critic will thus be quick to suggest that any such attempt can yield only two possible outcomes: either a generalised account of ʹthe Namibian peopleʹ, or a superficial survey of Namibiaʹs ethnic groups. Of course, both approaches would result in essentialised and incomplete ethnographies. However, in proposing this...

    • Chapter 2 State Imaginings
      (pp. 28-52)

      In approaching the State as an ethnographic object of study, we should indeed take cognisance of the grammatical and semantic nuances associated with ʹstateʹ. A S/state is a structure and a condition, and an act of expression, all at once. With respect to its active verb form, the State is a ʹstatementʹ, an assertion, an authoritative worldview backed by force (Comaroff 2002: 126). But what is the foundation upon which suchstatements rest? For the political scientist James Scott (1998), a Stateʹs capacity to state is dependent upon its ability to see, and thus to know, its subjects. Without vision,...


    • Chapter 3 ʹHow Do You Feeling about Freedomʹ
      (pp. 55-80)

      I had been living in Opuwo only a short time when I noticed the house. It was tucked away in the Otuzemba neighbourhood, amidst the hodgepodge of other self-built residential structures. The one-room, windowless building was constructed of mud bricks; it possessed a corrugated iron roof; and in former days it seemed to have maintained a smart-looking exterior coat of plaster. The house was ordinary enough, apart from the remnants of a remarkable message that was still legible on a section of plaster that had yet to crack and fall away from its façade. Someone had obviously taken great care...

    • Chapter 4 The Art of Being Governed
      (pp. 81-106)

      As one of the most elusive concepts in the social sciences, ʹpowerʹ remains a highly contested notion. For the sociologist Max Weber, power is defined as ʹthe probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistanceʹ (1964: 152); while the American political scientist Robert Dahl argues that ʹA has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise doʹ (1957: 202–3). In emphasising the ways action is influenced, these scholars highlight a notion of power-over. Another set...


    • Chapter 5 In the Matter of The State v. Custom
      (pp. 109-131)

      The art of being governed in Kaokoland is embedded in more than just discourse, for it also manifests itself in a set of social and cultural practices. Thus, as a way to explore state-related political imagination in action, I now turn my attention towards the administration of justice in Kaokoland. In shifting towards the anthropology of law,¹ a subfield built upon the work of many Africanist scholars (e.g., Schapera 1938; Gluckman 1955; Bohannan 1957; Gulliver 1963; Moore 1986), I begin by emphasising one of its most significant contributions: this body of anthropological scholarship has helped blur the distinction between the...

    • Chapter 6 Judicial Statements
      (pp. 132-158)

      Legal thought is constructive in nature. In this respect, laws and legal practices do much more than just regulate behaviour or reflect social life. They also have an imaginative power, a capacity to construct social realities. This constructional role of law raises important questions about the future, about Namibian society, and about the type of society Namibians want to create for themselves. In an effort to develop the link between the courts and imagination in and of the post-apartheid Namibian State, I now extend the discussion by centring my attention on the particularities of two specific cases. The two cases...

    • Chapter 7 Legal States of Imagination and their Effect
      (pp. 159-176)

      The previous chapterʹs cases exemplify effectively the social dynamics surrounding the legal process as it so often transpires within the context of Opuwoʹs magistrate and traditional court venues. In transposing the reflections and experiences of the central actors involved in the proceedings, my detailing of these the two cases has pointed towards some of the most dominant and widely shared jural perspectives among those in Kaokoland, as well as towards some of the central principles that help to distinguish these two so-called legal sensibilities. In this chapter, I further distil this ʹcomplex of characterizations and imaginingsʹ(Geertz 1983: 215) in order...


    • Chapter 8 Making Politics, Making History
      (pp. 179-201)

      Throughout much of the past century politics in northern Kaokoland have been influenced by a factional dynamic that has dominated and overshadowed nearly every other political consideration in the region. The conflict has conditioned not only local internal political processes, but also the relationship between Kaokolanders and the State. The dispute plays out between two factions – so-called traditional groupings – of primarily Otjiherero-speaking people. Although Kaokolanders, government officials and scholars alike tend to delimit these two groups on ethnic grounds, they do in fact share a common set of cultural attributes, and this makes such categorisations extremely problematic. Instead,...

    • Chapter 9 ʹTraditionʹ, Authority and the State in Northern Kaokoland
      (pp. 202-234)

      As in other parts of Africa,¹ Namibiaʹs traditional leaders have had to adapt to the changing social and political circumstances that have accompanied the end of colonial/apartheid rule; and all within an even wider set of global processes relating to democratisation and liberalisation more generally. In this chapter I continue tracing the threads of chiefship in Kaokoland by paying special attention to the period following Namibiaʹs independence in 1990. By focusing on some of the interrelated issues that have consumed much of the political energy in the region during the past two decades, I hope to convey a sense of...


    • Chapter 10 Towards an Ethnography of the (Namibian) State
      (pp. 237-257)

      This book has concerned itself with two primary aims. First, it has explored state-related political imagination among Kaokoland-connected people in Namibia. In focusing on the topics of government, courts and chiefship, it has considered some of the different ways Kaokolanders perceive and talk about, represent and construct, and experience the post-apartheid State. Secondly, the book has offered a methodological exploration by situating that imagination as a prism through which to refract the State ethnographically. My account offers insight into political imagination in Kaokoland, but it has done so as a means to ʹethnographiseʹ the post-apartheid State itself.

      In this final...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 258-272)
  12. References
    (pp. 273-302)
  13. Index
    (pp. 303-312)