Project C10

Demographic, economic and social transformations in a Namibian multiethnic region


Project Leader:

Dr. Julia Pauli
Institut für Völkerkunde
D- 50923 Köln

 0221 / 470-2706
 0221 / 470-5117


Dr. Clemens Greiner
Martina Gockel-Frank, M.A.


Research Area:





Fransfontein community, Kunene South, Central Namibia



The project describes and explains the demographic history and present of the Namibian community Fransfontein and its rural and semiurban surroundings. Special attention is paid to the interplay between historical processes, cultural dynamics and demographic transformations. For analytical purposes, it is helpful to differentiate the area into three social arenas, i.e. Fransfontein community itself, more than 30 communal and commercial settlements surrounding Fransfontein, and the town of Khorixas. Although these social settings are connected through dense and multidimensional social ties, e.g. based on migration or kinship, each of them has a distinct character. These settings form the base for three detailed ethnographic case studies undertaken within the project. Under a common cultural demographic framework each case study focuses on different aspects of the demographic and cultural dynamics of the region.

  1. Julia Pauli’s study, conducted jointly and in equal parts with Michael Schnegg (cf. project C1), is the broadest in scope, using a diverse range of data (e.g. archival records, life histories, ethnographic census and survey data, visual data, genealogical data and network data) to reconstruct and understand the demographic and cultural history and present of the Damara and Nama of Fransfontein and its surrounding communal and commercial farms. Julia Pauli focuses foremost on the historical emergence and transformation of kinship, especially marriage and other forms of partnership, combing systematic demographic data with new kinship theories, most prominent the concept of relatedness. A detailed description of Michael Schnegg’s research can be found under C1.
  2. Clemens Greiner’s aim is to understand the economic and social situation of several of Fransfontein’s surrounding settlements that are mainly inhabited by Otjiherero or (to a lesser extent) Oshiwambo speaking people. Historical and contemporary migration processes are central to his study. All settlements researched by Greiner are a result of forced colonial migration. These historical demographic antecedents are extended up to the present. Today, migration plays a prominent role in the local economy, e.g. in the form of remittances.
  3. In her Khorixas research, Martina Gockel tackles the multiple connections between demography and culture by analysing fertility decision-making in great detail. Namibian fertility decision-making is undergoing fundamental changes, not only due to a general reduction in fertility, but even more so because of fears of HIV infections.



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