‘A Dog with a collar…’ Field notes on an ‘indigenous wedding gown’

By: J-M Dederen

Pages 89-95

Abstract: The purpose of this ethnographic narrative is to detail the social and symbolic nature of the tshirivha leather skirt. Venda-speaking women in Limpopo Province once articulated their marital status by means of this garment. My initial, literature based understanding, in the mid-eighties, was biased in favour of a masculine perspective. More than a decade later, I undertook a more intensive, second reading in which I focused on shared opinions and views of female elders who had participated as novices in puberty rites during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The discussion combines data from the realms of material culture, storytelling and initiation. It should be of interest to those who believe that rural women are neither passive spectators, nor willing consumers of a patriarchal worldview. The tshirivha emerges from the analysis as a symbolic tool for the expression of female identity; as a marker of a separate, semi-autonomous world, and as a subtle means for the promotion of women's interests and concerns.

Subjects: tshirivha, gender conflict, material culture, rites of passage, Venda indigenous technology, female identity, creative culture


An ‘historic victory’ for the Basarwa in Botswana?: Reading the evidence

By: Emile Boonzaier

Pages 96-103

Abstract: In late 2006 ‘the Basarwa’ won a landmark case against the Botswana government, returning their rights to continue living in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (from which they had been ‘forcibly’ removed). The case attracted massive media attention, both in southern Africa and abroad. Although this media coverage overwhelmingly heralded the judgement as a victory, some reports suggested otherwise. Anthropological accounts have been similarly divided. Such different interpretations seem to indicate that there are still numerous unresolved issues regarding the role of activist anthropologists in similar minority rights cases. Most significantly, and notwithstanding the generally accepted critique of essentialist discourse within the discipline, we still seem unable to deal with the paradox of primitivism in an adversarial legal context. Not surprisingly, the Botswana government is now using the notion of the pristine “Bushman” to circumvent the spirit of the court ruling.

Subjects: Basarwa, San, Bushmen, media, Botswana, anthropology, activist anthropology, activist research


Beastly whiteness: Animal kinds and the social imagination in South Africa

By: Hylton White

Pages 104-113

Abstract: How do animals enter into the constitution of differences in human affairs? I address the question by showing how, in Zulu households, animals themselves are marked as beings with ethnic properties. If animals can be understood as being ethnically distinguishable, this forces us to reconsider what we take to be the implicit imagination of difference that is at stake in commonplace ethnic categorizations. Ethnic categories do not point to differences between separate human kinds. Instead they nominate differences between co-existing kinds of social ties. Most saliently, in the case at hand, ‘Zuluness’ and ‘Whiteness’ name two different ways of metabolizing money into topologies of connection and distinction in households.

Subjects: ethnicity, animals, value, kinship, sacrifice


Is xenophobia racism?

By: Kenneth Tafira

Pages 114-121

Abstract: The outbreak of anti-immigrant violence in May 2008 in South Africa has prompted a set of theoretical questions and a reappraisal of theoretical suppositions. While the attacks have in the main pervasively been presented as xenophobia, I argue in this paper that what is termed xenophobia is in fact racism—New Racism—practised by people of the same population group, which has characterised post-apartheid South African black social relations. These are implications of decolonisation and difficulties of assimilating and integrating black African immigrants into the new South Africa. On the other hand there is increased culture contact and intermixing as a result of the accelerated presence of people of other identities. There are of course conceptual and definitional limitations of the term xenophobia in describing the complex social realities occurring in South African black communities. I therefore call for the deconstruction of the term xenophobia and propose that we begin to see it as culturally-based racism. The article explains that this kind of racism is heavily entrenched in cultural differences enunciated by dissimilarities in nationality, ethnicity, language, dress, customs, social and territorial origins, speech patterns and accents. These differences are deepened by social and economic inequalities, and frustrations among local people are expressed thorough economic grievances, which however mask the preceding cultural contempt and disdain. In addition, some current black on black practices are reminiscent of apartheid white anti-black racism. Drawing on my fieldwork in Alexandra, I then discuss a wide range of labels which are used to refer to African immigrants.

Subjects: Xenophobia, New racism, anti-immigrant violence, labeling, South Africa, Alexandra


‘She's just like my mother’: measuring motherhood in the context of the HIV epidemic in South Africa

By: Naomi Marshak

Pages pages 122-128

Abstract: This paper emerges from an ethnographic study conducted in Kwazulu-Natal in 2010 that explored the practices of a humanitarian intervention providing psychosocial support for and strengthening of the bonds between orphans and children made vulnerable by HIV and their non-biological guardians. Examining the interface between the programme and its participants, this paper focuses on the social politics that emerged out of the organisation's bond strengthening vision. Providing a platform for the expression of a diversity of perspectives, I demonstrate the complex ways in which interventionist intention is reworked at ground level and how an essentially humanitarian goal was ‘twisted’ into a tool with which to ‘measure’ motherhood. This paper hopes to move both beyond the limitations of the polarised literature around the impact of the epidemic on African families, and by directly addressing the radical HIV-related reworking of motherhood, open up alternative avenues for the emergence of a ‘new’ and more nuanced anthropology of kinship in Africa.

Subjects: HIV and AIDS, development, motherhood, childcare, knowledge, stigma, KwaZulu-Natal