Jennifer Hays: "Cattle, Churches, and Toilets: Intersecting barriers to land rights for a Namibian community"

The Departmental Seminar Series features Jennifer Hays, Professor in social anthropology at the Social Anthropology Program at the University of Tromsø.

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This seminar will be a hybrid seminar where you can participate in person or via Zoom. Join Zoom Meeting.


Former hunter-gatherers, today the Ju/hoansi of the Nyae Nyae Conservancy in northeast Namibia are the only San community in all of southern Africa (and perhaps the only hunter-gatherers in all of Africa) to have rights to the plant and animal resources on their land, and the opportunity to practice their traditional skills.

However, they face numerous threats to their rights, including illegal incursions onto their land by cattle herders, illegal intrusions by evangelical churches, and ongoing pressure from corrupt politicians to designate plots of communal land for personal use. Why is it so hard to defend their rights - which are clearly articulated and justified in Namibian law and policy, as well as international declarations? What is the nature of the barriers preventing enforcement of legal rights? What are the responses of the community themselves to these encroachments?

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the Nyae Nyae Community for over two decades, and most recently in 2019, this presentation describes three intersecting factors that complicate the implementation of legal rights: those related to poverty, those having to do with culture, and the numerous structural barriers that confront this highly marginalized community. Despite these challenges, the Ju/’hoan community and their leaders are highly consistent in their responses and express a desire to maintain their access to land and resources for future generations.

Published Aug. 12, 2021 10:40 PM - Last modified Sep. 29, 2021 11:33 AM