| ||Preliminary results|
The creation of divide and and a discourse of mistrust
As is demonstrated in the paper "We speak Herero but we write in
English. Disempowerment through language use in participatory extension
work" (Beck, in print), the use of code-switching between written
English and spoken Herero is a way of using and producing a distance
between those who know and those who do not know English, i.e. a
hierarchy between those belonging to “modern” Namibia, a “elite” and
the farmers in the village. This pattern is pervasive in many contexts,
in the Tjohorongo-Kondjee Farmers' Association, too. It remains to be
seen which other means of “doing elite” may be encountered, and the
degree of relevancy we may ascribe the linguistic component.
“Doing elite” (through language) is part of performative inventories of
the participants. We may assume that they have had previous experience
of such situations, and will have other experiences still to come. It
remains to be tested, how salient such performative inventories are,
and which resources the participants have access to or use to “undo
elite” (cf. West & Zimmerman 1987, Kotthoff 2002, Hirschauer 1994).
While we see how in the example of the boar goat project discussion in
Omutiuanduko, leadership is (at least partly) constituted by “doing
elite”, it remains to be asked which other means for constituting
leadership are relevant, and whether “undoing elite” is one of them.
Since the methods used in the the boar goat project discussion are very
specific (using GTZ's ZOPP/Metaplan method) we will have to find
corroborative evidence of similar processes in other organizations.
The sequential analysis of the boar goat project discussion and other
meetings will have to answer some of the following questions:
Social contexts seem to be crucial not only for the understanding of
the social processes that become visible during the meeting. They are
also crucial for the constitution of development. Since we deal here
with an interface between English and Herero, what further insight can
we gain by using code-switching as a further point of reference (eg.
various publications by Carol Myers-Scotton, Finlayson & Slabbert
- What exclusive, inclusive, reappropriating and resisting strategies
are there, and what role do they play in the meeting?
- How is mistrust done and undone?
- What role does language (English
and Otjiherero), and literacy play in the constitution of the meeting,
and in the constitution of leadership. We may say that there is an
unfortunate association of the written and the spoken with English and
Herero which coincides with linguistic attitudes.
- In what ways is gender relevant for the “doing elite” and “undoing
elite”? What role does it play that the extension officers are
exclusively women? Is there a difference between meetings where more
men are present? Where a man is the extension officer?
Some of the linguistic dynamics of the meeting may be described
with linguistic attitudes. They themselves tie in to social dynamics of
contemporary Herero and Namibian society (Ohly 1987, 1999, PŘtz 1995a,
1995b, Harlech-Jones 1995, Beck 1995).
The constitution of meetings
In Omatjete area there seem to be basically two kinds of meetings:
Family meetings and community meetings. Family meetings are primarily
funerals, but also weddings, while community meetings are defined as
“development meetings”, and they are situated at a certain place within
the village, under the community tree. We have observed that community
meetings are much more open to the participation of women, while in
family meetings an exclusive group of men officially takes decisions.
Apparently there are quite well defined rules for the basic
constitution of a meeting, such as a formalized beginning with a prayer
by the eldest person present, an introduction to the meeting by the
chairperson etc. In the meetings frequent mention is made of rules to
which the participants must adhere. When handed over a turn by the
chairperson, the turn-taker has to get up. Usually it is men who stand
speakng, but increasingly women appropriate this role, too. Here we can
observe a difference between elder and younger women. While elder women
come to these meetings in the traditional Herero dress, young women
come dressed in "Western" clothes. The women thus identified as
"traditional" would rather not get up during prayers and not while
speaking, while the "Western" women rather do. However, there remain
- What happens in situation of discussion? Are turns
then still externally allocated, i.e. by the chairperson?
- How do the groups handle difficult situations?
- What are the consequences that women appropriate more and more
communicative rights through the appropriation of "modern" or "male"
role models? Can we also observe these processes in the way of
speaking? Can we see some kind of resistance, both from men and women?
- What are the models or forerunners of meetings people draw on to form
their own meetings?
- It is not clear so far which influence family meetings, and, for that
matter, informal chats among neighbours in the village, have on
decisions taken during community meetings. We assume that this
influence is considerable, but we have not yet been able to really show
it. Another issue is the interference of topics in both kinds of
meetings. For instance, cattle issues are very important at family
meetings, but this is also the case for community meetings?
The constitution of leadership
Since meetings also need leaders, this is a further important issue to
follow up. Leaders, or chairpersons, need to appropriate some
authority, and they have to be granted this authority by the
participants of a meeting. This is a sensitive issue, because the
chairperson needs a relevant social standing outside the meeting,
within the community. Also, in Herero society and history we can see
that leadership is constantly disputed, i.e. it is also constantly
re-established. In addition, Omatjete was confronted with two competing
chiefs, one of them appointed by the government, the other disputing
this appointment for himself. The alliance with either of the chiefs
a matter of permanent negotiations, because not only political and
administrative, but also spiritual and moral functions were ascribed to
them. So, while leadership is crucial for the well-being of a
community, it is also unstable. This raises some questions:
At present it is clear that the data material gives a very good basis
for this analysis. However, we still need to complement the sample with
meetings, especially meetings where no extension service or other
externally trained members take part. Such material must be collected
carefully and as the necessity arises.
- How is leadership constituted? How does a leader manage to acquire
authority and keep it? How can he/she ensure that he/she gets the
floor, and how can he/she prevent being interrupted in meetings? For
this we are currently looking at situations from various meetings
assessing pause structure, turn taking, turn allocation, repair
organization, strategies of cohesion and coherence. We are in the
course of comparing these findings across various meetings (TKFA
meetings, water point committee meetings, development project
meetings), various chairpersons, with or without extension officers
- How does a chairperson meet challenges, such as unruly
speaking up, interruptions, quarrels among the members?
- Who challenges the chairperson and on what grounds? Who comes in to
support the chairperson?
- How does a female chairperson create and maintain her role?
We also lack a historical
perspective: When did, for instance the community meetings emerge, and
on which precursors are they based? There are various kinds of
leadership which must be traced far beyond colonial times. It seems,
for instance, that one fundamental trait of leadership within Herero
communities is, that they are always disputed (eg. Gewald & Bollig
2000, Gewald 2000, Henrichsen 2000, Hendrickson 2000).