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Re-individualising human remains from Namibia

Colonialism, grave robbery and intellectual history

Larissa Förster, Dag Henrichsen, Holger Stoecker and Hans Axasi╪Eichab

In 1885, the Berlin pathologist Rudolf Virchow presented three human skeletons from the colony of German South West Africa to the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. The remains had been looted from a grave by a young German scientist, Waldemar Belck, who was a member of the second Lüderitz expedition and took part in the occupation of colonial territory. In an attempt to re-individualise and re-humanise these human remains, which were anonymised in the course of their appropriation by Western science, the authors consult not only the colonial archive, but also contemporary oral history in Namibia. This allows for a detailed reconstruction of the social and political contexts of the deaths of the three men, named Jacobus Hendrick, Jacobus !Garisib and Oantab, and of Belck’s grave robbery, for an analysis of how the remains were turned into scientific objects by German science and institutions, as well as for an establishment of topographical and genealogical links with the Namibian present. Based on these findings, claims for the restitution of African human remains from German institutions cannot any longer be regarded as a contemporary phenomenon only but must be understood as part of an African tradition of resistance against Western colonial and scientific practices.

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Skulls and skeletons from Namibia in Berlin

Results of the Charité Human Remains Project

Holger Stoecker and Andreas Winkelmann

From 2010 to 2013 the Charité Human Remains Project researched the provenance of the remains of fifty-seven men and women from the then colony of German South West Africa. They were collected during German colonial rule, especially but not only during the colonial war 1904–8. The remains were identified in anthropological collections of academic institutions in Berlin. The article describes the history of these collections, the aims, methods and interdisciplinary format of provenance research as well as its results and finally the restitutions of the remains to Namibia in 2011 and 2014.

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The return of Herero and Nama bones from Germany

The victims' struggle for recognition and recurring genocide memories in Namibia

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Vilho Amukwaya Shigwedha

, former German ambassador to Namibia who, while speaking at the signing ceremony for the multi-​million-​dollar cooperation between Germany and Namibia, described the return of the Namibian skulls as a ‘sensitive topic’, which, if not handled with utmost sensitivity, would have a negative influence on bilateral relations between the two countries.30 In a similar instance in February 2013, Kochanke’s successor, Otto Huckmann, remarked that although Germany will not forget its colonial history with Namibia, harping on the subject of reparations could tarnish the

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Death and dismemberment

The bodyand counter-revolutionary warfare inapartheid South Africa

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Nicky Rousseau

police structures that engaged in extrajudicial eliminations inside South Africa.13 Sometimes, such killings were conducted by official police units; in other instances, security commanders deployed trusted operatives to conduct such operations, or units emerged which, although not officially authorized, included such senior personnel that they can be regarded as ‘unofficial-official’. A large number of security police involved in these actions had prior experience of deployment in South Africa’s own direct theatres of war, namely Zimbabwe and Namibia,14 ‘location

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Identification, politics, disciplines

Missing persons and colonial skeletons in South Africa

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Nicky Rousseau

continue, or at the very least to fail to take into account, science’s prior legacies of collection and research. For multiple reasons – political, institutional, biographical – this contest and the public activism associated with it was incendiary, with scientists accused of engaging in the ‘mass harvesting’ of research specimens.46 For some, these histories have left an indelible stain on the disciplines associated with them; at times, this has included a rejection of all scientific interventions and modes of reading or studying colonial bones, which have been recast

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Bitter legacies

A war of extermination, grave looting, and culture wars in the American West

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Tony Platt

silence forever and forever.’43 But by the early twentieth century, racist views about Native people predominated, and the brutality of colonial settlers was retrospectively justified. How did this happen? The production of California history was a popular enterprise, regularly incorporated into grandly produced ‘theatres of memory’, Culture wars in the American West   23 such as world fairs and local spectacles, and into travel books, memoirs, adventure stories, textbooks, and magazines that exported the ‘California Story’ far beyond the state, long before Hollywood

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Marta Iñiguez de Heredia

were subjected to a tribute or slavery system (Kankwenda 2005: 283–5; Muiu and Martin 2009: Ch. 6; Vansina 1966: 118–19). Importantly, not all of these identities had to do with access to land and power; they also had to do with norms, customs and roles within different groups and were not all territorially linked. Additionally, it would be wrong to see ethnic divisions only in terms of animosities or as clear cut. The 82 History and present of ‘Africa’s World War’ long history of the DRC, including the pre-colonial period, is defined by cohabitation (Vansina 1966

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Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

agenda, genocides and episodes of mass violence are still both the source and the product of their know­ ledge. This dark memory of physical anthropology is displayed in 6 6   Human remains in society the chapter by David M.  Anderson and Paul J.  Lane on the fate of the skeletons of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, and similarly presented in the chapter by Vilho Amukwaya Shigwedha on the Hereros and Namas of Namibia murdered by German colonial troops. The collection of skeletons of these natives –​whose return from Germany is still ongoing –​was established at the

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The UN’s role in historical context

Impact of structural tensions and thresholds

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Eşref Aksu

‘South’, on the other hand, refers to a large number of poorer countries, most of which had experienced colonial occupation. As with the East–West tension, the North–South confrontation would decisively impact on the UN’s evolving role in world politics. Neither the East–West nor the North–South confrontation is easy to depict in a few paragraphs, especially if they are to illuminate such a complex

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Cas Mudde

of a negatively formulated Ansturm (storm) of foreigners, which is then contrasted to a positively formulated Zuzug (reinforcement) of the Aussiedler. Though not openly stated, it is clear that the fact that the latter group is ‘of German descent’ and the former are ‘from totally different cultures’ is the basis of the divergence in treatment: difference (of culture) means problems. There have been even fewer hints at racism, and these appeared exclusively in side stories, especially in reports of readers on trips to Namibia (described by its German colonial name