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Borders and Identities/Border Identities: The Angola-Namibia Border and the Plurivocality of the Kwanyama Identity

Chiara Brambilla


This article addresses the case of the African border between Angola and Namibia focusing on its linear part between the Kunene River, in the West, and the Okavango River, in the East. An area inhabited by the Kwanyama people. Drawing on both the Angola-Namibia border's symbolic meanings and its effects on the Kwanyama people's everyday life, we propose the idea of borders as social practice and discourse. We attempt to investigate the Angola-Namibia border both as 'institution' and 'process,' reflecting not only on the macro-perspective of the 'big discourses' that the State construction is based on, taking into consideration borders as institution and juridical and territorial limits of State power. We also focus attention, through a sort of 'squint,' on the micro-perspective of 'small discourses' that narrate the day-to-day experience of border communities who live regional transformations due to the border presence. To put it differently, we focus on the need to 'humanize' the borderlands.

Within this framework of reflection, the article looks at the territorial and human consequences of the Angola-Namibia border on the Kwanyama people, considering how a new borderland has taken and is currently taking shape. In particular, we discuss the discursive construction of identity and the role of border discourses in this process. In so doing, we deal with two discourses that express the Kwanyama identity along and across the border: one constructed by traditional authorities and the other by 'common' people who live in the many villages divided by the border.

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Print ISSN: 0886-5655
Online ISSN: 2159-1229