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The Anatomy of Colonial Police Forces in former German Southwest Africa

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Abstract:

How does the state enforce the monopoly of violence? What determines the investment in organizational capacity and the distribution of scarce repressive resources across its territory? How do internal administrative dynamics affect the internal organization of the repressive apparatus? These questions lie at the core of state-building processes and we turn to a historical case to shed light on them.
We analyze the security apparatus of the former colony of German Southwest Africa, present-day Namibia to unpack the construction of repressive authority. The colonial police was established in 1907 as a reaction to the Herero and Nama uprisings ended by a ruthless counter-insurgency campaign that became to be known as the first Genocide of the 20th century. The establishment of the police force was meant to reorganize the repressive system to ensure more effective control and prevent renewed rebellion. The reform took place under extreme scarcity: at its peak, the police encompassed little more than 500 active personnel spread across the colony. What factors determined the internal organization and management of the security apparatus under these conditions? We argue that the state’s challenge to enforce the monopoly of violence via human capital allocation is shaped by a trade-off between retaining skilled officers that prefer non-hardship positions close to the administrative capital and the need to project effective police power to remote locations. Moreover, the strength of this trade-off is determined by technological monitoring constraints of the colonial government.
Our empirical analysis relies on a comprehensive dataset of more than 700 hundred personnel files compiled from the German Federal Archives. The data represent a near full census of all rank and file police forces including, for example, information on the location of duty stations, socio-demographic profiles, professional backgrounds and training or previous experience in the military. We match these data with geo-coded socio-economic information on the colony, such as the location of previous violent events, German farms and settlements, availability of natural resources, infrastructure networks (roads, post stations, telegraph lines) and ethnic settlement patterns. We complement these quantitative data with qualitative information from unpublished sources collected from the Federal Archives in Germany and Namibia.
These unique data allow us to investigate the internal spatio-temporal organization of a repressive institution. Most notably, we go beyond mere infrastructure and personnel numbers and analyze in which way social, political, and economic conditions as well as internal administrative dynamics (e.g. leadership changes) affect the allocation of scarce human resources. Generating insights into the internal logic of repressive institutions in authoritarian states, we not only contribute to research on repression and resistance but also to the analysis of state-building and the political economy of colonialism.
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Name: American Political Science Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Pierskalla, Jan. and De Juan, Alexander. "The Anatomy of Colonial Police Forces in former German Southwest Africa" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, TBA, Philadelphia, PA, <Not Available>. 2017-01-24 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1126072_index.html>

APA Citation:

Pierskalla, J. H. and De Juan, A. "The Anatomy of Colonial Police Forces in former German Southwest Africa" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, TBA, Philadelphia, PA Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2017-01-24 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1126072_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: How does the state enforce the monopoly of violence? What determines the investment in organizational capacity and the distribution of scarce repressive resources across its territory? How do internal administrative dynamics affect the internal organization of the repressive apparatus? These questions lie at the core of state-building processes and we turn to a historical case to shed light on them.
We analyze the security apparatus of the former colony of German Southwest Africa, present-day Namibia to unpack the construction of repressive authority. The colonial police was established in 1907 as a reaction to the Herero and Nama uprisings ended by a ruthless counter-insurgency campaign that became to be known as the first Genocide of the 20th century. The establishment of the police force was meant to reorganize the repressive system to ensure more effective control and prevent renewed rebellion. The reform took place under extreme scarcity: at its peak, the police encompassed little more than 500 active personnel spread across the colony. What factors determined the internal organization and management of the security apparatus under these conditions? We argue that the state’s challenge to enforce the monopoly of violence via human capital allocation is shaped by a trade-off between retaining skilled officers that prefer non-hardship positions close to the administrative capital and the need to project effective police power to remote locations. Moreover, the strength of this trade-off is determined by technological monitoring constraints of the colonial government.
Our empirical analysis relies on a comprehensive dataset of more than 700 hundred personnel files compiled from the German Federal Archives. The data represent a near full census of all rank and file police forces including, for example, information on the location of duty stations, socio-demographic profiles, professional backgrounds and training or previous experience in the military. We match these data with geo-coded socio-economic information on the colony, such as the location of previous violent events, German farms and settlements, availability of natural resources, infrastructure networks (roads, post stations, telegraph lines) and ethnic settlement patterns. We complement these quantitative data with qualitative information from unpublished sources collected from the Federal Archives in Germany and Namibia.
These unique data allow us to investigate the internal spatio-temporal organization of a repressive institution. Most notably, we go beyond mere infrastructure and personnel numbers and analyze in which way social, political, and economic conditions as well as internal administrative dynamics (e.g. leadership changes) affect the allocation of scarce human resources. Generating insights into the internal logic of repressive institutions in authoritarian states, we not only contribute to research on repression and resistance but also to the analysis of state-building and the political economy of colonialism.


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Ringleaders, Mobs, and Enemies: Defining ‘Minimum Force’ in Colonial Protest Policing after 1914


 
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