Giorgio Miescher: Die Rote Linie. Die Geschichte der Veterinär– und Siedlungsgrenze in Namibia (1890er –1960er Jahre)
PhD-thesis, Department of History, University of Basel, 2010
The thesis recounts the history of Namibia during the first sixty years of the twentieth century through the perspective of an internal border, the ‘Red Line’. The border was a pivotal element in constituting not only the history of colonial Namibia as a segregated society but it also deeply determined Namibia’s historiography.
Based on archival sources and on oral history the thesis reconstructs a border building process which spanned over sixty years. The process started with the establishment of a temporary veterinary defence line against Rinderpest by the German colonial power in the late 19th century and ended with the construction of continuous two-metre high fence by the South African colonial government sixty years later. This 1250 kilometres long fence separates northern from central Namibia up to date.
The thesis combines a macro and a microperspective and differentiates between a cartographic and a physical reality. The analysis explores both the colonial state’s agency with regard to veterinary and settlement policy as well as strategies of Africans and Europeans living close to the border. The analysis also includes the different perceptions of people living in a distance north and south of the border and their experiences in crossing the border as migrants workers, African traders, European settlers or colonial officials. The Red Line’s history is understood as a gradual process of segregating stock and people, and also of constructing dichotomies of modern and traditional, healthy and sick, European and African. Seen in the logic of a South African Empire the Red Line conceptually functioned as a ‘barbarian border’ against the danger of inner-Africa and physically marked the limits of the ‘white’ settler South Africa.