Summer Centered: Bradford Morbeck ‘18 Researches the Namibian Genocide
This summer, the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship is funding the anthropology major's work, helping the Museums Association of Namibia produce an exhibition about the overlooked historical event.
A few months ago, inspired by Professor Imke Brust’s "German Colonialism and World War I" course, Bradford Morbeck ‘18 Googled heritage organizations in former German colonies in Africa, hoping to learn more about their present-day cultural and historical impacts on the continent. That's how he ended up in Windhoek, Namibia, spending his summer interning with the Museums Association of Namibia, a non-governmental organization that gives voice to museums throughout the country.
The Association helps other museums secure funding as well as with exhibition design, planning, and production. Additionally, to educate the public about the richness of Namibian culture and history, it also produces mobile exhibitions, one of which Morbeck is working on this summer. His project, for which he mainly researches historical images and writes captions and descriptions for them, focuses on the genocide that took place between 1904 and 1907, in what was formerly known as German South-West Africa.
"Brutal colonial conditions led to a native uprising and war, and when German military forces put down the uprising, they placed the prisoners of war, as well as women, children, and the elderly, in concentration camps around the country, resulting in between 50 to 75 percent of the populace of the Herero and Nama tribes being destroyed," Morbeck explains.
That genocide, however, continues to go mostly unrecognized internationally. There are currently no museums or monuments dedicated to Herero and Nama victims, and the German government, Morbeck explains, only acknowledged the events as a genocide last year. (Reparations are currently being negotiated between the two countries.)
"The high school history education on the genocide is very inadequate–it does not use the word ‘genocide,’ only ‘uprising,’ and it goes into little detail," Morbeck says. The exhibition he is helping to create will be the first of its kind to acknowledge and educate about the tragedy.
Thanks to the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, which is funding his internship, Morbeck has also been able to collaborate with Jeremy Silvester and Hilma Kapuka, both prominent Namibian historians.
"Jeremy is perhaps the most knowledgeable Namibian historian today and is a fantastic resource to guide my questions and research," Morbeck says. "Hilma is similarly a great project manager and is very passionate about Namibian history."
The anthropology major and German minor has made European colonization in Africa the major focus of his studies. He believes he may work in historical and cultural preservation in the future and use his experiences this summer in his senior thesis, which, for a change, he plans to focus on the urban divisions of the city of Windhoek.
"Living in Windhoek, the capital city, I am fascinated by the history of this city and its spatial and social divisions," Morbeck says. "The social circles, built environment, neighborhoods, and culture in Windhoek all bear the marks of colonialism and apartheid, and I have moved through many different social spaces and had many conversations with a diverse array of people here."
-Katya Konradova '19
"Summer Centered" is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.