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Student, Professor to Research 'Colouredness' in Namibia

A professor-student research team will travel to Namibia in Africa to examine how the color lines of Apartheid have influenced populations there by addressing how those who identify as “Coloured” understand Colouredness and navigate their interactions with other groups in Namibian society. 

Associate Professor and Chair Global Studies Madeleine Wong and Shanice Arlow ’20 received a St. Lawrence University Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) Fellows grant for $7,500 to travel to Namibia during the month of July to conduct interviews with people across multiple generations and archival research at the National Library in Windhoek.

While Namibia gained independence from South Africa in 1990, after previously being a German colony, the country had already been shaped by processes of colonization and the racial and ethnic segregation and discriminations of the Apartheid regime – separating the population into groups labeled as either white, black or “Coloured.”

Today, Namibia remains fragmented and racially divided with minimal interaction between groups. Yet, much of the research on Coloured people focus predominantly on those in South Africa, while research on different ethnicities and population groups in Namibia hardly mention Coloured people, where much of the research and public discourses focus on the experiences of groups categorized as black under the apartheid system. 

For Shanice, who is originally from Namibia herself and who attended Waterford Kamhlaba United World Colleges in Swaziland, this research project will allow her to uncover a history that never seemed to include the identity to which she, herself, ascribed.

“My knowledge and understanding of questions of identity have further been developed taking history classes at SLU, and it has made me think more about the history of Colouredness that I had never known or learned before,” said Shanice, who is majoring in global studies. “This CIIS research fellowship grant gives me the chance to contribute to the discourses around Coloured identity through an engagement with others in my community. In having (people in Namibia) share their opinions and experiences, I hope to gain a more critical and reflexive understanding of how Coloured people make sense of their identities and their place in Namibia.”

Shanice, who writes for Weave News, intends to connect her research with a parallel project she will undertake during her planned 2019 study abroad in Trinidad, and it will eventually serve as the foundation for her Senior-Year Experience project. 

Wong said the CIIS award provides both she and Shanice an invaluable opportunity for immersive one-on-one faculty-student research collaboration, mentorship and guidance in Namibia that enriches both of their respective intellectual projects and our personal growth.  

“I am a strong proponent of an immersive higher education experience for our students, particularly international and intercultural experiential learning by linking classroom knowledge with real world processes,” Wong said. “In particular, the employment of ‘culturally responsive pedagogy’ that entails teaching, research and learning within students’ particular cultural contexts, allows students to recognize and value the cultural wealth and knowledge of those contexts to informing knowledge production.”

Shanice commented that the close working relationship she has with a member of the St. Lawrence faculty is inspiring.

“Working with Dr. Wong, who fully supports students and is always ready to help, gives me the extra motivation,” Shanice said. “Her investing her time in me and this project which I am very passionate about makes me happy and proud.”

Shanice and Wong will present their research during Family Weekend in September 2018.

For more information, visit CIIS and the Department of Global Studies.