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Elsemi Olwage, M.A.

Short Biography

I completed by Bachelors of Arts (BA) in Development and Environment Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2009 – majoring in Social Anthropology. In 2010 I moved to the University of Cape Town where I completed both my Honours (Hons) and Masters of Arts (MA) in Social Anthropology, graduating in 2013. My MA thesis focused on urban nature conservation within Cape Town. It addressed specific colonial and apartheid socio-spatial and epistemological legacies shaping biodiversity conservation in the city and the dynamics of translation at the intersection of situated ethical practices and knowledges.

In April 2014 I joined the University of Cologne as a research fellow in the LINGS (Local Institutions in Globalized Societies) project. LINGS is a comparative and long-term DFG-funded research project (2010-2019) based in three different locations in areas under communal land tenure, north-western Namibia. It tries to understand how local public institutions governing collective resource-use, specifically water, emerge at the intersection of global models, state decentralization reforms and existing, inherited and embedded local public institutions.

My own PhD research approached this question from the perspective of changing mobility practices and different forms of mobilities/immobilities – specifically those related to the making and unmaking of communal tenure, land relations and boundaries, as well as more everyday and gendered forms of mobility which shape how people negotiate public life in post-independent Namibia.


AW Mellon Cross-Faculty Scholarship, 2011 and 2012, University of Cape Town.

Janet Goldblat Bursary, UCT Council Honours Merit Bursary, Wenner Gren Fellowship (Social Anthropology), 2010, University of Cape Town.

Thematic Interests and Regional Focus

Environmental anthropology, gender, post-colonial studies, political and economic anthropology, knowledge politics.

Southern Africa.

Research Projects

LINGS (Local Institutions in Globalized Societies).

Courses and Seminars

Summer semester 2017: "African Anthropology? Formative turning points and the post-colonial critique" (with Janie Swanepoel; block seminar)


Bollig, M., and Olwage, E. 2016. The Political Ecology of Hunting in Namibia’s Kaokoveld: From Dorsland Trekkers’ Elephant Hunts to Trophy-hunting in contemporary Conservancies. Journal of Contemporary African Studies 34 (1): 61 -79

Olwage, E. 2015 Growing Together: The politics of knowing and creating an urban commons in Cape Town, South Africa. Culture and Environment in Africa Series 7, Cologne African Studies Centre, Published Master Thesis (Also available online as Olwage, E. 2013. Growing Together: the politics of knowing and conserving (bio) diversity in a small conservancy in Cape Town. MA Thesis. University of Cape Town.)