Dissemination trip to Windhoek, Namibia: Cooking, eating and sharing thoughts with interlocutors

ESR Rune Larsen went back to Namibia in November 2022 to disseminate his research

Having just finished a long, but heartfelt ANTHUSIA end-conference in Cape Town, South Africa, I travelled on to Windhoek, Namibia. The aim of this extended mission was to disseminate my recently finished PhD thesis, entitled, Between Arts, Politics and Spirituality: Young adults and their everyday politics in Windhoek, Namibia. Following personal tradition - of doing things somewhat differently - I had decided to primarily focus on disseminating my research, thoroughly and honestly, to my interlocutors. The rationale behind this decision was simple. I needed to know what my friends and interlocutors thought should happen next. After all, this project was about them, and I felt that they deserved a direct say in how the further dissemination should be approached, after my data had been processed and made into a finalised PhD dissertation.

I had packed as many printed copies of my dissertation as I could possibly fit into my suitcase. I wanted to give these to my friends as soon I arrived in Windhoek. Oh Windhoek, that strange and puzzling city, which now holds a very dear place in my heart. I had arranged to stay with a close friend of mine, who had generously offered me a stay with him and his family during my visit.

Upon my arrival, it had been arranged for us to attend a small gathering in an undisclosed location around town. When I arrived, my friend had already gone to help with the preparations for the party. Soon after dropping off my overfilled suitcases, I was on the road with a mutual friend of ours, who was also joining. When we arrived, I was puzzled. All the faces, that I knew from around town, now seemed to have found communion. I found my host and explained my puzzlement. He looked at me, smiled widely, and explained: “yes, things changed after you were here…”, with a well-known sparkle in his eye.

Indeed things had changed. As the week went by, I started to see how the different groups I had worked with, and not really considered much connected, were forming an organic community-in-becoming. Little had I considered, that my mere presence would cause such beautiful disturbances, and yet, how would it not? The ethnographer is, after all, a very involved and nosy breed.   

In the coming days, I had many exchanges with all of my friends and interlocutors, and by sharing the printed versions of my dissertation, we were able to discuss the next steps to be taken. Both in an effort to convey the ethnographic insights of my project academically, but more importantly how to reach audiences beyond the academy. One remarkable session of exchange occurred towards the end of my stay, when my host and I had arranged a small feast for the ones interested in partaking. As the food was being prepared, discussions were being held on how best to approach the dissemination of my research to broader public audiences, and what forms this could take. A combination of story-telling and animation was suggested and the first seeds were planted for putting such a project to fruition. As the evening went on, and our Namibian Mushroom Chili was being dished out, more faces came and went, and the last remaining copies of my dissertation were handed out, now awaiting further reviews to be considered and included as my dissertation is being re-written into an ethnographic monograph.