Hai||om in the Etosha Region

A History of Colonial Settlement, Ethnicity and Nature Conservation
Dieckmann, Ute
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Hai||om in the Etosha Region

Subtitle: A History of Colonial Settlement, Ethnicity and Nature Conservation
Author: Ute Dieckmann
Publisher: Basler Afrika Bibliographien
Basel, 2007
Soft cover, 17x24 cm, 398 pages, many bw-illustrations, maps and tables

On the book:

The Etosha Region in Namibia, comprising the famous Etosha National Park and its adjacent communal and commercial farm lands, has been a contested region since the advent of colonial settlement.

The centenary of the Etosha Park in 2007 provides an opportune moment for critical reflection on its history, a much-needed appraisal achieved by this book through its multiple perspectives.

At the centre of this book are the Hai||om San and their long history of dispossession and discrimination. Ute Dieckmann analyses with care the historical transformations.

These were linked not only to the creation of one of the largest nature conservation areas in Africa but also to the establishment of a settler state and society.

The manifold ways in which the Hai||om strive today to improve their living conditions are central to her insightful study.


Robert Gordon, University of Vermont

Ute Dieckmann meticulously documents how foragers were dispossessed of their land which was then converted into settler farms or a Game Reserve to which they could return as an impoverished rural lumpen-proletariat. …

To a large degree they are victims not of exploitation, but of super-exploitation in that the means for their social reproduction is being whittled away. Dieckmann documents this process painstakingly.

About the author:

Ute Dieckmann has been working with the multidisciplinary research centre ACACIA at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the University of Cologne since 1998.

She is currently conducting research on the history of settlement in the Outjo-District in Namibia, paying special attention to the changing vulnerability patterns and risk-management of commercial farmers.


A good deal of luck as well as many hazards and incalculable events are always involved in the kind of research undertaken by anthropologists. Initially I started my fieldwork in September 1998. At that time, the topic of my research was subsumed under the title "Land rights and Identity of the Hai||om" in northern central Namibia.

After three weeks of preparation in the capital Windhoek, a colleague of mine, a translator and myself arranged for a first visit to the Hai||om community in Outjo. Unfortunately for ourselves and for the people in Outjo, who had been informed of our visit beforehand, this first visit had to be postponed. After a serious car accident on the road to Outjo my study had to be put on hold for more than six months.

Therefore, my fieldwork in Namibia did not get underway until the July of 1999. The reason for mentioning this at the beginning of the book is that owing to the car accident and my protracted recovery, my approach to the research and the fieldwork changed considerably. When I was able to start working again - it had to be just 'desk-work' in the beginning - I began my research by consulting literature and historical sources in the libraries in Germany and in the National Archives of Namibia. Hence, more value and focus than initially intended became attached to historical processes.

My desperate hunt for "the Hai||om" in archival documents made a strong historical angle on the emergence of an ethnic entity necessary, which had not been anticipated to such a degree beforehand. Furthermore, the initial archival research influenced my later approach to fieldwork in northern central Namibia.

The focus shifted from the sole examination of the relationship between land rights and ethnic identity to a broader approach, the investigation of the impact of colonial history on ethnic identities, as well as the instrumentalisation of ethnicity in the Namibian context. The influence of the colonial powers in Namibia led to an alteration in material conditions for "the Hai||om". This change of entitlements (e.g. land rights) of an ethnic group over a period of more than a century is the focus of this study.


Note on this Edition
Genocide amnesia? An Introduction

1 The Subject and the Conceptual Framework
The Subject of the Study
Theoretical Framework
Ethnicity and Identity
Resilience, Vulnerability and Sustainable Livelihoods
Regional Studies and the Current Agenda of San/Bushmen Research
Who are "the Hai||om"?
Field Sites, Fieldwork and Methods
Brief Introductions to the Field Sites: Outjo and Okaukuejo, Etosha
Fieldwork and Methods
Structure of the Study

2 Precolonial Times, 1850-1884
Introduction: The Problem of Localisation
Zeitgeist and Representations
Zeitgeist — the Intellectual Background
Embeddedness ofHai||om in Regional Networks
The "Explorers"
The Area Occupied by Various Groups

3 German Colonial Period, 1884-1915
Zeitgeist and Representations
Zeitgeist - the Intellectual Background
The Project of Colonisation
The Initial Phase: 1884-1906
The Post-War Period: 1907-1915

4 South African Period, 1915-1946
Zeitgeist and Representations
Zeitgeist - the Intellectual Background
South African Policy and Practice
The Transitional Phase: Namibia under Martial Law 1915-1920
The Mandate Period 1920-1946

5 South African Period, 1946-1990
Zeitgeist and Representations
Zeitgeist - the Intellectual Background
Policy and Practice
General Policy and Development
Bushmen Policy and the Situation on the Ground

6 Independence, 1990-2004
Zeitgeist and Representations
Zeitgeist - the Intellectual Background
Namibia's Policy and Practice
Living with Uncertainty
Etosha & Farms
Connections and Similarities

7 Shifting Identities
History and Identity: Legacies and Appropriation
"Cultural Constituents"
What's in a Label?
Playing the "Bushman" card: Hai||om, San and NGOs in a Global Network
Hai||om Ethnicity in Colonial Times
Various Recent Trends
Discussion: Burden or Potential?

8 Conclusions
Representations and Agency
Changing Access to Resources in Colonial History
Ethnicity and Colonialism
The Rise of Ethnicity

A Note on Orthography
List of Figures
List of Maps
List of Plates
List of Tables