Seminar African Studies Centre Leiden: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Northern Namibia

Seminar Afrika Studiecentrum Leiden: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in Northern Namibia by Dr. Wendi Haugh, St. Lawrence University, New York.

In post-independence Namibia, nationalist perspectives have dominated official and popular discourses about political identity and community. The SWAPO-led government has promoted nation-building through state-owned radio stations, the centralized educational system and speeches by government officials at venues all over the country. This research project focuses on Oshiwambo-speaking Catholic youth from northern Namibia who compose and sing songs to express their ideas about the Namibian nation. Nationalism, which seeks to build bounded identities attached to particular states, is usually seen as being opposed to cosmopolitanism, which produces networks of people stretching across political, cultural and linguistic boundaries. In various times and places, nationalists have felt threatened by cosmopolitans and vice versa, while the ethnographic literature tends to focus on either nationalists or cosmopolitans, occasionally juxtaposing them as two distinct types. Yet in Oshiwambo-speaking northern Namibia, the heartland of the Namibian nationalist movement, a close examination of popular discourses about language reveals a strongly cosmopolitan orientation rooted in opposition to apartheid ideology and in participation in the migrant labour economy. This seminar will examine song lyrics, conversations and a survey of language attitudes to investigate the relationship between nationalist and cosmopolitan orientations. It will be argued that a cosmopolitan orientation has facilitated the development of nationalism, which requires people to build connections across apartheid boundaries, while the success of the nationalist movement has enabled people to carry out cosmopolitan projects both at home and abroad.


Maandag 16 april van 1530-1700

Venue: Room 5B02, African Studies Centre, Faculty of Social Sciences Leiden University, Pieter de la Court building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden, a 10-minute walk from Leiden CS. Please use the entrance at the Wassenaarseweg-side of the building.

Cost: Free of charge

Information and registration:

Vice Versa

10 april 2012