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Conflict and Power in Nineteenth-Century Namibia

Brigitte Lau
The Journal of African History
Vol. 27, No. 1 (1986), pp. 29-39
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/181335
Page Count: 11
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Conflict and Power in Nineteenth-Century Namibia
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Abstract

In explaining how one Oorlam group, the Afrikaners, lost their hegemony in Namaland in the 1860s, this article examines the impact on this region of Oorlam migrations, trade with the Cape and the advent of Christian missionaries. The kinship-based social organization of Nama pastoralists was largely replaced by the 'commando' organization, introduced by the Oorlams. By the 1850s, production throughout Namaland was geared less to subsistence than to the demands of Cape traders for cattle, skins and ivory. Raiding and hunting, with imported guns and horses, supplanted local traditions of good husbandry. While foreign traders made large profits, commando groups were locked into a cycle of predatory and competitive expansion. By the early 1860s, such conflict had polarised; the Afrikaners and their allies (including Herero client-chiefs) confronted several Nama/Oorlam chiefs and an army raised by a Cape trader, Andersson. The ensuing battles were not, as has been claimed, a Herero 'war of liberation' instead, they marked the replacement of Afrikaner by European hegemony; the country was freer than ever before to be controlled by agents of merchant capital and colonialism.

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