The return of Herero and Nama bones from Germany
The victims' struggle for recognition and recurring genocide memories in Namibia
in Human remains in society

The colonial troops of imperial Germany, the Schutztruppe, carried out a systematic war of extermination (1904 – 1908) against the Herero and Nama people in what is now modern day Namibia. An undisclosed number of bones of the victims were traded to Germany in their pursuit of scientific racial studies. As part of the post-genocide growing trend calling for the repatriation of the bones, ongoing negotiations between the Namibian and German governments have resulted in the return of fifty-five skulls, including a few skeletons since October 2011. The return of these bones to Namibia has divided Namibian society on religious, cultural, political and ethnic issues regarding what to do with the genocide victims’ remains.

In view of the general public perception that the genocide bones have been treated with a considerable degree of indignity, this study attempts to associate the evolving disrespectfulness for the genocide’s bones with the re-emergence of genocide trauma and suffering of the affected communities in general. It perceives political obstruction, involving German and Namibian governments, as a central factor that impedes humanitarian efforts to seek justice and dignity for the bones or descendants of the genocide’s victims.

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Human remains in society

Curation and exhibition in the aftermath of genocide and mass-violence

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