Title: Violence as Usual
Subtitle: Communal land reform in Namibia
Author: Marie Muschalek
Publisher: University of Namibia Press
Namibia, Windhoek 2020
ISBN 9789991642628 / ISBN 978-9-99-164255-0
Softcover, 15 x 22 cm, 255 pages, several b/w photographs
In German Southwest Africa violence was pervasive but also highly differentiated: blows were dealt along social and racial hierarchies, with some tools considered more appropriate than others, and policing was often about showing rather than telling what acts of physical violence constituted proper social conduct. Colonial violence was inscribed in an intricate system of official regulations and institutionalized meanings. What was at stake both in practice and in discourse was a theme raised time and again by colonial administrators and enforcers: the proper "treatment of natives." For immediately after an incident that led to the suizide of a black victim, local administrators raised the question whether his corporal punishment had been the reason for his suicide, and whether it had been authorized or not.
Opinions on the issue varied. One official was convinced that the suicide was definitely the German policeman's fault and that, by beating Hans, Bauer had "rendered himself liable to prosecution." Another official revised his initial belief that there was a connection between punishment and suicide, but felt that the beating had been irregular and thus deserved a disciplinary reprimand, while still allowing for "attenuating circumstances." Yet another official admitted that the beating had been formally unlawful, but he saw no problem with the "energetic rebuke" of an African subordinate, referring to the German policeman's customary "right of paternal chastisement" and his overall good standing.
The exchanges among officials discussing the case demonstrate that the act of hitting an African man, although a run-of-the-mill affair, did not have one clear and simple meaning. Often, colonial bureaucrats struggled in their rationalizations, and their writings reveal that within the colonial state apparatus, the appropriate "treatment of natives" was laden with what Ann Stoler has called "epistemic anxieties." The anxiety was about how much and, more importantly, what kind of violence was necessary to control indigenous labor and ensure colonial rule—and who were the proper wielders of this violence. Violence as Usual: Policing and the Colonial State in German Southwest Africa is about the power of violence. Not warfare but the workings of everyday violence are its object of study.
Introduction: Everyday Violence and the Colonial State
Honor, Status, Masculinity: Violent Identity Formations
Soldier-Bureaucrats: The Primacy of Proper Bearing
Of Whips, Shackles, and Guns: Tools and Technologies of Policing
Police Work: Daily Routines and the Art of Making Do
Policing Work: Violent Regulation of the Labor Market
Conclusion: Histories of Colonial Violence