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Water, Sand, Molluscs: Imperial Infrastructures, the Age of Hydrology, and German Colonialism in Swakopmund, Southwest Africa, 1884–1915

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How did nature challenge German colonialism in Southwest Africa? What role did water, sand, and a small mollusc play as Germans tried to establish their first and, in many ways, only settler colony? This paper explores the events surrounding the town of Swakopmund, a small coastal settlement defined as the main entry point (Eingangstür) into German Southwest Africa at the time. As a case study, Swakopmund arguably provides an excellent framework when showcasing the importance of widely underestimated environmental protagonists in the construction of the German Empire; it also underlines the value of incorporating environmental history more broadly into discussions of German colonial fantasies in the age of hydrology.
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Keywords: Africa; Age of hydrology; German Empire; colonial fantasies; colonialism; dredging history; infrastructures; water

Appeared or available online: November 1, 2018

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