To devour the land of Mkwawa: colonial violence and the German-Hehe War in East Africa, c.1884-1914 Public Deposited

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  • December 1, 2021
  • Pizzo, David
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • To Devour the Land of Mkwawa: Colonial Violence and the German-Hehe War in East Africa focuses on the German-Hehe War, which raged across the Southern Highlands of what is now Tanzania in the 1890s, and is based on archival and field research done in Berlin, Freiburg, Dar es Salaam, and Iringa. The central question of the dissertation is nature of imperial violence in the African context, in this case perpetrated by German-led colonial forces in their attempt to subdue the large, martially proficient Hehe conquest state, which was similar other states based on the Zulu model. The extreme brutality and destruction that characterized this nearly decade-long campaign resulted not simply from some sort of “special path” of the German Empire or some sort of culturally encoded national pathology, but rather arose from the interplay of conditions and exigencies “on the spot” in East Africa and broader, overlapping circuits of violence that connected processes and events across the globe. I also seek to destabilize the traditional binary of omnipotent European invaders and passive African victims—indeed, the Hehe under Chief Mkwawa were highly effective killers and administrators whose tenacious resistance to the Germans itself brought forth extreme responses from German colonial forces. My work is transnational and comparative: it is the former insofar as the violence that characterized the Hehe-German War was the result of and drew on several concurrent developments that transcended national or other established political boundaries. It is the latter in that I explicitly compare the Hehe-German War with other cases of intense colonial violence across Africa and Asia in order to illuminate what is specific about both the German imperial experience and about the powerful Hehe Mfecane State. These events are a part of world history, not just East African or German history, and they offer one an opportunity to explore the larger issue of how violence and warfare—particularly irregular, asymmetrical warfare—shaped and continue to shape our world.
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  • Browning, Christopher R.
  • Open access

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