Colonial Trajectories: On the Evolution of the German Protectorate of Southwest Africa
Colonialism manifests itself in a variety of forms. Through comparative case studies, we can systematically explore these varieties. However, by focusing on recurring patterns in order to determine what is typical for a given case, in contrast to other cases, comparative studies tend to neglect temporality and change. Hence the question arises: How can we acknowledge the evolving nature of the objects of comparison without rendering systematic accounts impossible? In order to answer this question, I will discuss the notion of “colonial trajectories”, which allows us to create process-sensitive typologies. I will illustrate this argument by tracing – in three steps – the evolution of the German protectorate of Southwest Africa, the precursor of present-day Namibia. Although this essay is not itself comparative, it does lay out a conceptual framework for comparing patterns of socio-political change in a colonial context.