Elsemi Olwage

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Social Anthropology – ethnography and knowledge co-production, heritage and identity, land-ocean relations, place-making, migration and mobility, development studies, environmental humanities, legal anthropology, gender and human rights.

AFFILIATION: University of Namibia (Namibia)

My research focuses on histories of displacement and erasure in the hyperarid Namibian coast and how this intersects with grass-roots struggles for social and environmental justice, expressly by the ǂAonin community. Specifically, I engage with indigenous and creole heritage practices in reckoning with a coastal landscape shaped by powerful extraction and conservation regimes, an insular marine space, and stark inequality.


Elsemi has co-written the blog post ‘Reflections on the processes, challenges and deep learning from the Hurinin project’. She has also contributed to an associated short film entitled ‘HURININ People of the Sea’ – The Topnaar people’s search for human rights and recognition’ that has been screened at Climate COP28 and at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference, as well as communities within Namibia.

Making waves
  • Elsemi was a guest speaker on the Hub’s podcast episode ‘Opening up research practices: transdiciplinarity, art-based participatory research methods and social justice’. – listen here >>
  • Short clip of Elsemi’s contribution to the Hub’s Satellite event entitled ‘Presenting the Transdisciplinary Toolbox for Transformative Ocean Governance’ at the 2024 Ocean Decade Conference – watch here >>
Recent publication

Olwage, E. (forthcoming) “The Politics of Mobility and Belonging in Disputing Land in Kaoko” in: Sullivan, S., Dieckman, U. & Lendelvo S. (Eds.), Etosha Pan to the Skeleton Coast: Conservation Histories, Policies and Practices in North-west Namibia. Open Book Publishers (OBP).

Elsemi on leadership
Elsemi presenting at the Hub’s satellite event at the ocean decade 2024 conference Photo: screenshot

“Critical socio-historical and heritage-based research in and on coastal Namibia, including in its coastal urban settings, is still limited. This has implications for both representation and memorialisation, knowledge production, and decision-making, with the ocean and coastal zone in Namibia often imagined as empty of social and cultural relations and claims. The Hub has provided an opportunity to begin to unpack these assumptions. A key insight generated through the Hub’s work is the close interconnection between human and cultural rights, and heritage discourses within ocean governance. In 2023, I was given the opportunity to serve on the executive committee for the Hub in Namibia. This allowed me to grow in terms of leadership skills, especially working under the generosity of the Hub’s Namibia Country Director, Prof Alex Kanyimba, and advocate Dr Tapiwa Warikandwa.”

Elsemi’s advice to fellow Early-career researCheRs

“Working from the Global South can be challenging, given the still persistent global inequalities in funding and knowledge production. It can result in power imbalances and lack of equal knowledge exchange. One key practice can be for early career researchers to try to be involved from the start with co-writing and co-designing the project proposal. Secondly, early career researchers should contribute to and ethically align with the project’s Code of Practice. This will ensure that project partners can create a shared culture of learning and heighten long-term local impact, including mutuality in knowledge production.”

Read Elsemi’s Spotlight interview – here >>