Vol. 38 Issue 1/2 - 2015
Ilana van Wyk, Kathleen Lorne McDougall & Heike Becker
White Namibians in tourism and the politics of belonging through Bushmen
Stasja P. Koot
Namibian Bushmen, such as the Hai//om and the Ju/’hoansi, are increasingly involved in the growing, white-dominated tourism industry. In this, white Namibians tend to position Bushmen and themselves as people of nature and conservationists. Elsewhere, whites from southern Africa have avoided contact with blacks by identifying more with nature than with people. This has been an important element in their “politics of belonging” to the land. From this perspective, Bushmen occupy a special position because they are considered “part of nature” while they are also members of contemporary society. Although this view is paradoxical at first sight, I argue that essentialising Bushmen as people of nature and modernising (developing) them “into society” are compatible ideas that can strengthen white Namibians’ belonging to nature and society. Against the background of the global indigenous movement and local history, crucial elements in this process of belonging are the tourists’ quest for authenticity and southern African paternalism.
Subjects: authenticity, belonging, Bushmen, Namibia, paternalism, tourism, whites
Case pending: practices of inclusion and exclusion in a class of plaintiffs
Apartheid victims have had a difficult standing in South Africa in the years that followed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In the government's perspective, the TRC had conclusively dealt with apartheid victimhood. Consequently, when victims turned to US courts in the early 2000s to sue multinational companies for their role in the perpetration of apartheid- era crimes, they faced everything from scepticism to hostility. From a different perspective, many scholars shared this scepticism, fearing the individualising power of the law. But contrary to the TRC, these apartheid litigations, as class actions, offer individual victims the chance to make their claims collectively.
With the help of the extended case method, this article shows how both victims and courts struggle with the difficult relationship between structural reasons, collective action and individually experienced harm. I enquire into the logics of the law as produced in courts and into lived experience of apartheid-era victimhood in today's South Africa and suggest a refinement of theories of legalisation.
Subjects: apartheid crimes, class action, law, South Africa, structural violence, victimhood
Surviving change by changing violently: ukuthwala in South Africa's Eastern Cape province
W.J. (Jaco) Smit & Catrien Notermans
During the last decade a comeback of the apparently extinct marriage practice called ukuthwala has been noted and has found much attention in the South African media. It has been raised as a particular concern that, apparently, ukuthwala increasingly entails the abduction and rape of underage girls as a precursor to marriage. This article aims to illustrate why this alleged “cultural throwback” occurs as the result of national socio-cultural, legal and economic processes in South Africa. Operationalising the concepts of policulturalism and Afromodernity as suggested by Comaroff and Comaroff (2012), ethnographic fieldwork revealed that local communities are establishing new autonomous identities, set against the Constitution's ideal of human rights, through the revival and change of customary practices. These revived customs are then employed as survival strategies to combat new economic challenges and the HIV/ AIDS pandemic. Concurrently, these survival strategies influence the way in which ukuthwala is practiced, re-articulating an old tradition within modernity.
Subjects:Afromodernism, marriage, policulturalism, poverty, ukuthwala, violence
Journeying into interobjectivity: how worlds can be multiple and real
The culture-nature division is fundamental to the division of academic labour between the social and natural sciences. In the face of climate change and other broad environmental threats, natural and social scientists are becoming critical of this division of labour. This paper considers Contested Natures (Macnaghten and Urry, 1998) and heterotopia in the social sciences and social-ecological systems in the natural sciences as attempts to undo this division. These attempts, I argue, reproduce the ontological division fundamental to the problem they aim to overcome. Using a curious coincidence on a trip to the field, I explore a language that avoids the subject/object distinction characteristic of this ontological divide. By closely considering the point on my journey where my travelling companions — a GPS navigator and a small Japanese sedan — encountered their limits, I find a metaphysical starting point for a multiplicity of natures that are more than mentally-held cultural constructions of nature, or linkages between diverse social systems and an ecological realm. The argument suggests that multiple worlds emerge from the disentangling operations of interobjectively extended bodies and that the apparent unity between multiple worlds is itself a product of such interobjectivity.
Subjects:culture/nature division, interobjectivity, maps, nature, ontology, space, travel
The truck driver's watch: time and the working lives of long haul truck drivers in southern Africa
Adriaan S. Steyn
The optimal use of time has shaped the organisation of productive activity in capitalist societies. This objective has similarly shaped labour in the truck transport industry. Drawing on mobile ethnographic fieldwork conducted amongst long haul truck drivers in southern Africa, I explore the unique ways in which time is folded into and dictates the greatest part of their lives on the road. While these drivers face a myriad of time-consuming contingencies, they are constantly trying to move between different places in the quickest possible time. In the absence of well-enforced regulations restricting their daily time on the road, they are willing to stretch the limits of their bodies in order to turn every available minute into distance and, therefore, into profit for their employers. This time-discipline is not only externally imposed upon them, but also assumed and internalised to such an extent that they come to pride themselves on their own time-thrift. By drawing inspiration from Burawoy's notion of work as a game, I suggest that we could make sense of truck drivers’ willingness to work as hard as they do by thinking of their work in terms of a quest.
Subjects:mobile ethnography, Southern Africa, time, truck drivers, work, work as quest
The indigenous system of social relations (1934), with an introduction by Isak Niehaus
Agnes Winifred Hoernlé & Isak Niehaus
This article reproduces, with minor editorial changes, a previously unpublished paper presented by Agnes Winifred Hoernlé to the New Education Fellowship Conference in Johannesburg in 1934. Hoernlé argues that education is vitally important in preparing the next generation of Africans for life in a complex emerging civilisation, in which European social patterns are imposed on African ones. Hoernlé acknowledges that many Africans live in towns and on white-owned farms under conditions far removed from tribal life. In this context, she argues, education should not aim to (re)produce cultural autonomy, but should rather “stimulate a healthy spirit of South African citizenship, which can animate both Blacks and Whites.” Hoernlé sees African kinship systems and African traditions, such as bridewealth and age-sets, as possessing great strength and vitality, even in modern conditions. In her opinion, Africans can be transformed into a civilised people, without ceasing to be true Africans. She condemns Whites for failing to understand these traditions, but also for denying African children access to scientific knowledge. In his introduction to the article, Isak Niehaus suggests that Hoernlé's address shows an early quest to understand cultural differences within an emerging industrial society, rather than seeing cultures as singular and different from each other and in functionally integrated terms.
Subjects:early social anthropology, education, South Africa, Winifred Hoernlé
Auditing poverty? Applied anthropologists and the discourse of development in post-apartheid South Africa
This article debates the opportunities and disadvantages attached to applied anthropology, specifically consultancy linked to development work, within the institutions and processes of the modern neo-liberal state. Located within political and applied anthropology, the article uses insights gained from two projects to assess the impact of development projects on displaced people, and to evaluate the actual process of producing reports. These cases illustrate how anthropologists deal with the conflicting demands of received knowledge (about development) and actual conditions on the ground during research. The paper argues that development outcomes mostly depend on classification, calculation and the displacement of people in order to motivate a particular type of development intervention by the state, and compares this with Foucault's use of “governmentality.” Ultimately, although this method of classification has strengthened the role of the South African state, it has also produced very static conceptions of citizenship, particularly in relation to the provision of housing for informal dwellers.
Subjects:applied anthropology, development, displacement, governmentality, methodology
Aesthetics of Muslim public and community formations in Cape Town: observations of an anthropologist
Ala Rabiha Alhourani
This paper explores the implications of the arrival of Muslim Somali immigrants for the emergence of other Muslim communities in post-apartheid Cape Town. The ethnography unpacks the complexity and diversity of Somali identity formation, their culturally distinct politics of aesthetics in performances of Muslim-ness, and how they form community. Further, the paper focuses on the mass celebration of Mawlid Al-Nabi (the celebration of Prophet Mohammad's birthday) in Cape Town. This celebration reveals an emergent Muslim urbanity and public performances of Muslim-ness that signify the integration of the religious and the secular, and the various ways in which Muslims position themselves within the “multicultural” context of contemporary South Africa. The paper examines the sense of citizenship and multiple belongings that Muslims have to their respective cultural localities (such as Malays, Somali, Indian, African and White), to an imagined Muslim community in Cape Town, to the South African nation, but also to a Muslim transnational Ummah. The paper explains that performance of Muslim-ness is partially influenced by, and embodies, distinct cultural localities of Muslims. Conversely, it appears to draw on aesthetics of Islam, which embody a symbolic enactment of sensorial religious sacredness, which is common, shared and performed by the culturally diverse transnational Muslim Ummah.
Subjects:aesthetic of Islam, community formation, Muslims in Cape Town, Muslim public, performance, sound
Ons is Boesmans: commentary on the naming of Bushmen in the southern Kalahari
William F. Ellis
This paper examines academic debates about the nomenclature of the San in light of recent ethnographic data. Academic debates centre around two aspects: the apparent complicity of the term “bushman” in construing the San as lower on the hierarchy of race and class; and the construction of the San as being in close contact with animals and nature. Academics have sought to resolve this dilemma of complicity by adopting self-referential terms, which would allow them to overcome the effacement of cultural and linguistic variation. Critically, the paper argues that this turn to self-referential terms is problematic in the case of the ≠Khomani San of the southern Kalahari because the San themselves claim “bushman” as their identity. The analysis suggests that the ≠Khomani San claim this name for themselves in a context of developmental needs. Thus, ≠Khomani San chose the name “Bushman” for themselves because it can be commoditised.
Subjects:authenticity, Boesman, Bushman, ethnonyms, Khoisan, ≠Khomani, San, self-referentiality, southern Kalahari
Church of boxing
Boxing and religious practice: a comment on Sender's “Church of boxing”
How to be a real gay: gay identities in small-town South Africa
George Paul Meiu
Biological relatives: IVF, stem cells, and the future of kinship
War in Worcester: youth and the apartheid state
Ancestors and antiretrovirals: the biopolitics of HIV/AIDS in post-apartheid South Africa
Patricia C. Henderson
Resonance: beyond the words