International Conference

Towards Humanising the Future. Justice in the Shadow of Colonialism. A transformative Learning Approach

Freiburg, Thursday, 29.09.2022 till Saturday, 1.10.2022

Conference website

The conference aims to connect three important topics whose connection is not often seen. From a recognition of the lasting issue of Namibian-German reconciliation in the aftermath of colonialism and genocide, the impact of the colonial heritage on health and education in Namibia will play a central role. Viewed from a holistic perspective, health addresses more than acute illness or healthy behaviours and encompasses challenges as diverse as widespread poverty-related illness and also transgenerational trauma. While the former relates to gross social inequalities that are, at least partly, a sequel of more than 100 years of colonial domination, the destructions wrought by war and, in particular, the genocide perpetrated 1904-08 is a trauma that transcends generations. These events and the trauma directly impact practices of education and parenting (parental attitudes) and on the way everyday conflicts and political controversies are handled. These issues call for a human rights-based approach centred on human dignity that links the aforementioned areas. They should also be held against the principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which were proclaimed for the first time for all of humankind and not just regionally defined part of humanity.

Against this backdrop, the conference is not intended to rehearse ‘history’, but to seek ways in which memory practices, especially in education, can be explored and developed in order to work toward ‘repairing the world’ (Achille Mbembe), i.e., humanising the future by instilling the necessary sensitivities and how to deal with traumatic heritage, also in confronting victim competition. In this sense, it is also vital to understand the mutual implication of subjects living today as the descendants and heirs of the victims and perpetrators of the past. Such thinking applies to a range of issues related to the current difficult process of searching for a conclusion in the aftermath of the genocide between the two peoples involved or to the everyday relations and conflicts that might arise from inter-communal competition related to the dire legacy.

Against these general considerations, the conference will focus, in particular, on how these issues can be dealt with in the context of school education. In particular, this involves the question of how didactic and educational concepts can be translated into concrete classroom practices. This calls for the involvement of teachers and educational professionals in the relevant fields. One important dimension can be sharing experience and information between Namibian and German perspectives, including knowledge and practice gained in Germany in dealing with the Holocaust. Concepts developed in this context may also help address issues such as intercommunal conflict that arise when dealing with various forms and experiences of colonial injustice in a country such as Namibia, which is marked by an array of diverse experiences. Such situations also reflect the ways in which the present territory of Namibia was assembled in the colonial partition of Africa, and thus, from a contemporary and forward-looking perspective, require cultural knowledge and sensitivity, besides an active determination to overcome divisions by relating experiences and addressing difference.

Each day of the conference will focus on one of the three main themes. On the first day, we will deal with the question of how to teach history in a postcolonial world? This will focus on didactic issues as well as the relationship between history, human rights education, and peace education. The second day will focus on analysing the current situation in Germany and Namibia, including discussions about struggles for an adequate memory culture, critical exhibitions in museums (such as the current exhibition of the Lindenmuseum in Stuttgart and the exhibition on ‘Freiburg and Colonialism’ to be staged from June 2022), or historical research on the presence of colonialism at the local level. Finally, on the third day, we will discuss current challenges in both countries, including a variety of topics in education and health.

Besides inspiring keynotes, the conference puts emphasis on collaborating and working together in interactive workshops. We warmly invite colleagues (researchers, educational specialists, and teachers) to contribute to this conference by participating in the conference and organizing a workshop. 

Further information, call for workshops and registration can be found at the Conference website

Location: University of Education Freiburg, Kunzenweg 21, 79117 Freiburg, Germany.

Conference Committee and Organisation

Uwe H. Bittlingmayer (University of Education Freiburg), Basilius Kasera (University of Namibia), Reinhart Kößler (ABI, University of Education Freiburg, Freiburg University), Stefanie Harsch (University of Education Freiburg), Hertha Pomuti (University of Namibia), Charmaine Villet (University of Namibia), Marceline Vries (University of Namibia), and Heiko Wegmann (Freiburg Postkolonial).