ual and reproductive health. I argue that divergent discourses on the gendered sexualities of the indigenous population were thus central to the most basic tension of empire, namely that the Otherness of colonized persons was neither inherent nor stable; their difference had to be continuously redefined and maintained. As Ann Stoler and Frederick Cooper have elaborated, the designation of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ took a major part in this enterprise:
Social boundaries that were at one point clear would not necessarily remain so. In pursuing a ‘civilizing mission’ designed to make colonized populations into disciplined agriculturalists or workers and obedient subjects of a bureaucratic state, colonial states opened up a discourse on the question of just how much ‘civilizing’ would promote their projects and what sorts of political consequences ‘too much civilizing’ would have in store (Stoler and Cooper 1997:7).
Stoler and Cooper (1997:7) have raised concerns that few anthropologists and historians of colonialism have analysed the repercussions of these shifting categories in the mundane spaces of everyday life. Work such as the Comaroffs’ on colonialism and modernity on the South African frontier (Comaroff and Comar – off, 1991; 1992; 1997) has begun to point out the instability of the colonial encounter in social spaces, such as domesticity. How they are related to the colonial constructions of gender and sexual identities, and the improvising strategies of their postcolonial refashioning, still remains a challenge.
I have argued elsewhere for more attention to everyday life, and gender relations and sexuality within it, when examining processes of culture, power and hegemony, and indeed the refashioning of identities and cultural memory in the postcolonial situation (Becker 2001). In the postcolonial as in the colonial situation, the question presents itself as to which forms of gender and sexual identities are audible, as opposed to merely visible. In other words, which, and whose, voices can make themselves heard in the gendered and gendering cultural discourse? What are the gendered and gendering meanings of the silences around women’s initiation? What are the gendered and gendering meanings around its ostensibly contradictory public presence, as exemplified in a prime time national TV programme?
These are some of the questions I engage when discussing the postcolonial situation where women’s initiation is still controversial. The forms these contestations take differ from the colonial to the postcolonial periods, however. Variations of cultural memory, and contrasting meanings of efundula are being invoked in the realms of local and national postcolonial public culture by different people. The postcolonial variations present at once continuities and discontinuities of earlier discourses with respect to the trope of African (‘traditional’) sexuality and gendered local practices. The present cultural discourses are refashioned by the material conditions and cultural representations of postcolonial Namibian society, situated within an increasingly globalising world. I thus suggest that distinct