From ǂNûkhoen to Damara

Origins, identities and political structures

French Institute Seminars in Humanities (FISH)
8 December 2014

15:00 – IFAS Conference Room, 62 Juta Street, Braamfontein


Jonathan Benabou
PHD candidate, National Museum of Natural History

This seminar will present research focused on the anthropological history of the ǂNûkhoen/Damara, a socio-cultural group living in contemporary Namibia. This work is drawing on ethno-historical material and recently written documents produced by the Damara People collected since 2011, early and late ethnographic accounts of the region as well as scientific literature in genetics and linguistics. The general objective is (i) to trace back the origin(s) of the ǂNûkhoen and the historical processes leading to the emergence of Damara groupings and identities in relation to space; (ii) describe the shift form a non-structured political system to state institutions made of chiefs and councillors, the « traditional authorities » and their « jurisdiction area », (iii) defining and freezing the (new) identities they represent.


Jonathan Benabou is a doctoral student at the National Museum of Natural History. He works on dialectics between land, identity and authority and on the social and political transformations among the Damara People. He is also conducting a study on the historical and socio-anthropological approach of the community’s management of the natural resources in Western Namibia.