Christian A. WilliamsApr 19, 2021
National Liberation in Postcolonial Southern Africa
A Historical Ethnography of SWAPO's Exile Camps
Cambridge University Press 2015
In National Liberation in Postcolonial Southern Africa: A Historical Ethnography of SWAPO’s Exile Camps (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Christian Williams tells the stories of the many exiles that lived in camps established by the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) during Namibia’s three-decade liberation struggle. Through extensive use of oral testimonies as well as photographic and documentary materials, Williams describes the wide range of experiences that exiles encountered at many of the camps managed by SWAPO throughout Southern Africa. He concludes that the commonly used ways of describing these camps, as either housing refugees or for military purposes, are insufficient to capture their complexity, and to understand their long- lasting impact on the formation of an independent Namibia. Liberation movement camps, as Williams describes them, were sites where, among other things, conflict and violence set the stage for the development of social and political hierarchies which continue to shape Namibia’s postcolonial life. Yet, official histories of the liberation struggle exclude the stories and experiences that many exiles underwent during their time at the camps complicating their ability to see themselves as part of the new nation. This book makes a compelling case for the study liberation movement camps as a means to rewrite the history that underpins Namibia’s postcolonial future.
Esperanza Brizuela-Garcia is an associate professor of history at Montclair State University.