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Authors: Kornes, Godwin
Title: Heroes, martyrs, comrades: the aesthetics and politics of liberation memory in Namibia
Online publication date: 20-Jul-2023
Year of first publication: 2023
Language: english
Abstract: After more than a century of colonial rule, genocide, and a protracted armed liberation struggle against apartheid South Africa, Namibia finally gained its national independence in 1990. Since then, both the postcolonial state and its citizens are grappling with the long-term effects of settler-colonialism and apartheid rule. One arena, where the presence of the past is of particular salience for the negotiation of political identities, is the phenomenon of what I term ‘liberation memory’. By this, I refer to the various formats and practices by which people commemorate different and at times highly localised, particular, and antagonistic histories of anticolonial resistance. Based on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork, my analysis is focussed on a set of devices which are of central importance for the public mediation of liberation memory in Namibia. This includes the commemorative calendar of political national holidays, which narrates a dramatic narrative of the nation based on topoi of heroism, martyrdom, and liberation through armed resistance. By combining ethnographic data from the events and the historical reconstruction of their emergence as national days, I show how these days helped to construe and mediate the history of the armed struggle of Swapo, Namibia’s dominant liberation movement and ruling party since 1990, as the history of national independence. I further investigate the memorialisation of the anticolonial liberation struggle in the form of museums, monuments, and memorial sites, with a particular focus on the role of Mansudae. The North Korean state-owned company has been emerging as a major stakeholder in developing memorial culture in Africa, with Namibia as one of its most loyal customers. With the Heroes’ Acre and the Independence Memorial Museum in Windhoek, as well as the Ongulumbashe memorial landscape, Mansudae has built the most significant sites of statesponsored liberation memory in Namibia. In my thesis, I provide a detailed historical analysis of these sites’ creation, as well as of the manifold contestations tied to them, especially regarding their dominant focus on the experience of armed liberation in exile. I also analyse the cooperation between Namibia and North Korea as an expression of a shared history of anticolonial resistance and the existence of a post-socialist memory-scape, in which models of antiimperialist memorial culture are shared, translated, and appropriated. In addition, I discuss reburials, heroes’ funerals, and communal commemorative practices related to anticolonial resistance and especially the genocide in southern Namibia, which at the same time complement and challenge the central state’s memory politics with its focus on the armed liberation struggle against South Africa. All of these case-studies provide insights about the categorical differentiation that is tied to the heterogeneous collective of people who refer to the history of anticolonial resistance as a resource of national identification, based on their political affiliation, age, gender, exile experience, regional background, and individual contribution to liberation in the form of ‘struggle credentials’. As I demonstrate, it is especially the official recognition of the latter by the government that makes liberation memory a phenomenon with tangible social, political, and also economic consequences.
DDC: 060 Organisationen
060 General organization and museology
300 Sozialwissenschaften
300 Social sciences
320 Politik
320 Political science
720 Architektur
720 Architecture
900 Geschichte
900 Geography and history
960 Geschichte Afrikas
960 General history of Africa
Institution: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Department: FB 07 Geschichts- u. Kulturwissensch.
Place: Mainz
URN: urn:nbn:de:hebis:77-openscience-227fb0b0-9527-448d-a71c-4e67396d31cf4
Version: Original work
Publication type: Dissertation
License: In Copyright
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Extent: 351 Seiten ; Illustrationen
Appears in collections:JGU-Publikationen

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