Labor, urbanization, and political imagination in Namibia, 1943-1994

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This dissertation examines the emergence of urban collective consciousness around labor conditions and the basic necessities of urban life in the context of South African colonialism and apartheid in South West Africa (SWA), or present-day Namibia. The major industries of both South Africa and SWA depended on the separation of categories of migrant, short-term workers and a minority of long-term workers with urban residence entitlements. But SWA's migrant labor system was distinctive because of the subordination of SWA industrial interests to those of South Africa—in particular, South Africa's mining industry—in the regional distribution of African labor, which in turn had enduring effects on African politics in SWA and the political culture of independent Namibia. While South African mines profited from an expansive zone of recruitment stretching into central Africa, South Africa limited the South West Africa Native Labor Association (SWANLA) to a labor force from SWA north of the Red Line and Angola. The solidarity of SWANLA contract workers was stronger for the relatively small recruitment area, the numerical dominance of Oshivambo-speaking people in that area, and the advantages of belonging to a group with such leverage in the industries that made SWA a viable colonial concern. The nationalist South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) used the strategic power of the strain of Ovambo-ness that developed out of the SWANLA contract system to advocate for Namibian independence from South Africa on the international stage. The interests and aims of Africans from the Police Zone, and even northern contract workers who did not join SWAPO's leadership in exile from the mid-1960s, differed from those of SWAPO nationalists operating on an international scale. Police Zone towns reproduced the territory-wide infrastructure of the Red Line in miniature, seeking to house northern contract workers in compounds separate from their families and Police Zone workers in family houses. But the translation of South West African apartheid to individual towns was rife with inconsistencies and contradictions stemming from differences in local economic interests and cracks in SWA's system of influx control. For much of the period of South African rule, northern contract workers channeled their work-based solidarity to eke out small concessions from their employers or to challenge the administrative and infrastructural underpinnings of the contract labor system on a local scale. Long-term urban residents and migrant workers from within the Police Zone tended to see their position as distinct from northern contract workers, and when they challenged the state they did so on the basis of the state's failure to provide basic necessities such as housing. Urban political communities emerged from the cracks in SWA's migrant labor and influx control systems but were eclipsed by SWAPO's internationally-recognized nationalism. Because of the roots of SWAPO's nationalism in the SWANLA migrant labor system, SWAPO rule perpetuated labor and ethnic categories of the colonial period that had been sanded down in Police Zone towns, at worst preserving them in their most oversimplified ethnic form. This dissertation examines the sanding down of these labor and ethnic categories in the mining town of Tsumeb and the port and fishing town of Walvis Bay.


Type of resource text
Form electronic resource; remote; computer; online resource
Extent 1 online resource.
Place California
Place [Stanford, California]
Publisher [Stanford University]
Copyright date 2019; ©2019
Publication date 2019; 2019
Issuance monographic
Language English


Author Quinn, Stephanie Elizabeth
Degree supervisor Roberts, Richard C, 1932-
Thesis advisor Roberts, Richard C, 1932-
Thesis advisor Cabrita, Joel, 1980-
Thesis advisor Campbell, James T
Thesis advisor Ferguson, James
Thesis advisor Hecht, Gabrielle
Degree committee member Cabrita, Joel, 1980-
Degree committee member Campbell, James T
Degree committee member Ferguson, James
Degree committee member Hecht, Gabrielle
Associated with Stanford University, Department of History.


Genre Theses
Genre Text

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Stephanie Quinn.
Note Submitted to the Department of History.
Thesis Thesis Ph.D. Stanford University 2019.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2019 by Stephanie Elizabeth Quinn
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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