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Maps and memory, rights and relationships: articulations of global modernity and local dwelling in delineating land for a communal-area conservancy in north-west Namibia

Sian Sullivan (October 2019)

Abstract. Mapping new administrative domains for integrating conservation and development, and defining rights in terms of both new policy and the citizenry governed thereby, have been central to postcolonial neoliberal environmental governance programmes known as Community Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM). Examples now abound of the complex, ambiguous and sometimes contested outcomes of CBNRM initiatives and processes. In this paper I draw on historical, oral history and ethnographic material for north-west Namibia, particularly in relation to indigenous Khoe-speaking Dama / ≠Nūkhoen and ||Ubun peoples, to explore two issues. First, I highlight the significance of historical colonial and apartheid contexts generating mapped reorganisations of land and human populations, for memories of access and use that exceed these reorganisations. Second, I foreground a nexus of conceptual, constitutive and affective relationships with lands now bounded as CBNRM administrative units or ‘conservancies’ that have tended to be displaced as an economising ‘culture complex’ of neoliberalism has unfolded in this context. Acknowledging disjunctions in conceptions and experiences of people-land relationships can assist understanding of who and what is amplified or diminished in contemporary globalising trajectories in neoliberal environmental governance. In particular, oral histories recording individual experiences in-depth, especially those of elderly people prompted by return to remembered places of past dwelling, can historicise and deepen recognition of complex cultural landscapes that today carry high conservation value.


Keywords. maps; memory; affect; identity; rights; land; community-based natural resource management (CBNRM); neoliberalism; neoliberal environmental governance; on-site oral history; cultural landscapes; colonial and postcolonial Namibia; Dama / ≠Nūkhoen; ||Ubun

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