How are ‘the past’ and constructions of ‘pastness’ being fashioned into new green materialities that act to perform ‘green economy’ responses to ecological crisis?
Enduring fear that the landscape of west Namibia is on the brink of ecological collapse and catastrophe – associated with ‘desertification’, climate change, species loss and industrial development – can stimulate apocalyptic framing that invite innovative sustainability interventions. Global ‘green economy’ discourses and policy approaches – wherein market solutions are sought so as to problems frequently caused by the extraction and manufacture of products for markets, i.e. 'market failures' – are key to understanding approaches to ‘sustainability’ in west Namibia. At the same time, Namibia has been a global leader in some aspects of developments in broader ‘green economy’ approaches (see, for example, Brown 1992).
Put simply, the landscape of west Namibia is indelibly entwined with a key international concern to generate a global ‘green economy’ that seeks to produce both economic growth and environmental sustainability. The specific combination of ways in which this is unfolding here provides a rich setting for exploring in detail the production of ‘green economy’ discourses, policies and interventions. Key dimensions include drawing into the open the versions of past relationships between people, landscapes, and associated organic and inorganic entities on which interventions are built, as well as elucidating the versions of future relationships that these interventions seek to amplify.
Simultaneously, these interventions can be brought further into dialogue with the sometimes rather ‘other’ versions of ‘sustainability’ and ‘culturenature’ relationships embodied in what is becoming known as the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) of some of the region’s variously indigenous inhabitants. Opening up the circumstances through which particular green economy and sustainability proposals (have) become uttered and established can thereby deepen understandings of the historicity – the actuality of contexts and events, as well as their inclusions and exclusions – structuring the unfolding of conditions in the present (de Certeau 2010: 26).
In this dimension of Future Pasts research, then, we are interested in exploring how exactly environmental ‘sustainability’ is understood to be generated through the production and circulation of particular objects and commodities produced in west Namibia and asserted to be ‘green’. Relevant sources of information include discourse analysis of policy and other texts, interviews with key actors, and participant observation. Through these engagements, we seek to clarify and juxtapose proposals by different actors associated with the west Namibian landscape for generating ‘sustainability’ into the future, focusing in particular on:
1. the ways in which new ‘green’ commodities and the institutional contexts guiding their production are understood and projected to produce sustainability into the future;
2. the ways these ‘green economy’ responses intersect with understandings of ‘sustainability’ and of ‘culturenature’ relationships expressed in the intangible culture heritage (ICH) of indigenous and local ecological knowledges.
Brown, C.J. 1992 Namibia’s Green Plan (Environment and Development) (Draft). Windhoek: Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation and Tourism (MWCT).
de Certeau, M. 2010 Heterologies: Discourse on the Other, trans. by B. Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
For more detail on specific lines of enquiry pursued through this research thread see below:
See the UN Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) at
i.e. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries,
The ‘vet. fence’ or ‘Red Line’, established so as to control the movements of livestock and people and thereby to control the spread of disease whilst protecting commercial (white) farming areas in southern Namibia and containing African economies in the northern areas under communal land tenure, dissects Namibia from east to west (World Bank 1992: xv). In the west, this boundary extends through southern Kunene Region, having shifted from, for example, following the line of the Omaruru / ≠Eseb River south of the Brandberg in 1937 (Hartmann et al. 1998: viii) to its present location north of the Huab River (see Figure 8 below). For a detailed historiography of the Red Line, see Miescher (2012).
last accessed 28 February.