Where do we fit in? : Examining the Marginalization of Ethnic Communities in Namibia

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Title: Where do we fit in? : Examining the Marginalization of Ethnic Communities in Namibia
Author: Syväoja, Nita
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political and Economic Studies
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201906132875
Thesis level: master's thesis
Discipline: Kehitysmaatutkimus
Development Studies
Abstract: Tiivistelmä – Referat – Abstract One of the most critical post-independence issues of nation-building and inclusive national political, economic and social development is inequality between regions and ethnic communities in Namibia. Namibia is a diverse ethno-cultural country, and the plurality of different ethnic and linguistic communities create difficulties considering holistic national development processes since variety of needs should be supported and provided. Although Namibia has been performing well according various developmental indicators since the independence in 1990, a number of ethnic minorities are in vulnerable and marginalized position in the country. The study elaborates the issue of what constitutes the marginalization of ethnic minorities in Namibia in order to understand the mechanisms and forces that maintain certain ethnic communities marginalized in the society, as well as comprehend the developmental impact of marginalization. The question will be examined by investigating three interrelated aspects: 1) The definition and identification of ethnic marginalized communities; 2) How recognition is constituted by the state and what is the impact on the ethnic communities? and; 3) What are the key developmental issues that constitute/maintain the situation? All these issues will be explored by investigating the key interrelated mechanisms and forces that constitute the marginalization of ethnic communities in Namibia including historical patterns of exclusion, ethnic labelling, the state policies and practices, and political and socio-economic citizenship. In order to shed light on the topic, 26 qualitative thematic interviews have been conducted among young Namibian respondents and Namibian and international experts, complemented by a literature review. It was found out, that all respondents as well as the state acknowledge the existence of ethnic marginalized communities and their marginalized position in the country. Further, it is generally acknowledged which ethnic communities are considered to be marginalized. The main argument is, that the situation of certain ethnic communities is worse off in Namibia in relation to other ethnic communities and there are number of internal and external interrelated and partly conditional issues that affect and maintain their marginalization. Firstly, the relation between ethnicity, indigenousness and minority status to marginalization was examined. First and foremost, it was recognized that ethnic background, political and socio-economiccitizenship as well as inidgenousness influence the marginalization of ethnic communities in Namibia.It was also found out that despite the phenomena and terminology regarding indigenousness and minority status are debated and questioned in the Namibian context, the definitions, identification and categorization of these phenomena are applied to some extent. Moreover, the issue of what constitutes the recognition or non-recognition and what is the impact on ethnic marginalized communities was examined. It became evident, that there are different levels and types of recognition. All Namibians are recognized as citizens, but not necessarily as a community that affects the situation of distinct communities e.g. through specific rights or entitlements. The key issue of recognition in Namibia is the official recognition of a traditional authority as per the Traditional Authorities Act (1995). Traditional authorities have power at local and national levels, and they are important e.g. in terms of land allocation. If ethnic community do not have officially recognized traditional authority, they are even in more marginalized position in the country than other marginalized ethnic communities. Lastly, the general political and socio-economic status is one of the strongest determinants that affect and maintain the marginalization of ethnic communities. The key political and socio-economic interrelated internal and external issues identified are e.g. overall discrimination, lack of self-worth and agency, lack of recognition and inadequate political representation, poverty and lack of basic needs, inadequate access to services and opportunities, and lack of secure access to land and resources.
Subject: Marginalized communities

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