It’s been seven years since the outbreak of the Greek debt crisis, yet Greece — the country that gave birth to democracy — is still stuck in a vicious cycle of debt, austerity and high unemployment. Three consecutive bailout programs have deprived the nation of its fiscal sovereignty, transferred many of its publicly owned assets and resources into private hands (virtually all of foreign origin), produced the collapse of the public health care system, slashed wages, salaries and pensions by as much as 50 percent, and led to a massive exodus of its skilled and educated labor force. As for democracy, it has been seriously constrained since the moment the first bailout went into effect, back in May 2010, as all governments that have come to power have pledged allegiance to the international actors and agencies behind the bailout plans — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — and follow closely and obediently their commands, irrespective of the needs and wishes of the Greek people.
Unsurprisingly, this includes the so-called Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), an opportunistic political party with a great knack for old-style cronyism and little experience in managing national affairs. Syriza has been in power for two nightmarish years now, co-governing with the extreme nationalist and xenophobic political party, The Independent Greeks (ANEL).
In the course of the last two years, Syriza, under the leadership of its populist leader Alexis Tsipras, reneged on its campaign promises to voters (ending bailouts, ending austerity and creating public work programs to reduce unemployment), and converted itself into a counterfeit copy of a social democratic party. Since the internal split with the far-left segment, Tsipras has made big-time overtures to European socialists and has attained an observer status in meetings of EU socialist leaders. In this way, Syriza has sought to fill the gap after the collapse of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) while signing a third bailout agreement and committing to execute international creditors’ plans for the sell-out of the country and its conversion into a neoliberal paradise for multinationals and big business interests, analogous to what took place in Latvia.
It’s true that Syriza faced incredible pressure from far stronger adversaries once it was elected, especially given the fact that the Greek state was financially bankrupt. However, the party did not need to pursue the course that it opted to follow — namely, betraying the popular mandate and converting itself into a mainstream political party in hopes of remaining in power for as long as possible. The moment Syriza’s leadership realized that it was incapable of resisting the pressures of the international creditors (the EU and IMF), it should have made a direct appeal to the Greek people by explaining the nature of the situation and the anti-democratic proclivities of the euro masters. It could have then stepped down, causing a European crisis, and turned to organizing grassroots resistance and distributive justice from the ground up. But this was never in the works: Syriza’s leadership had paid allegiance to the euro masters and the domestic corporate/financial elite even before it won the election of January 2015.
The reason why Greek governments have opted for all these years to become servants of the EU/IMF duo is quite simple: They are part of the capitalist universe and inextricably linked to the economic project of the European Union. As such, they believe there is no alternative for bankrupt Greece to bailout programs, and subsequently, to ruthless fiscal readjustment along the austerity route, coupled with a massive privatization undertaking and the end of the social state. This sad state of affairs applies even more forcefully to the current Syriza-ANEL government, which is now involved in some very awkward discussions over the completion for the assessment of the new bailout agreement. The IMF has yet to commit itself to this agreement, as it has a rather different perspective from that held by the European fiscal authorities both over the sustainability of debt and the depth of the reforms under way.
Specifically, the IMF finds the current levels of Greek public debt to be simply unsustainable (it stands at 180 percent of GDP and over 90 percent of long-term liabilities are held by public creditors). The IMF has therefore called for a sizeable debt write-off and also pushed for more reforms on all major sectors of the economy (banks, energy, labor market). In fact, the IMF wants the Greek government to commit itself via legislation to measures beyond 2018 — in other words, beyond the expiration of the new bailout agreement. The IMF contends that Greece’s debt levels will explode to much higher levels in the years (and even decades) ahead, and that the reforms proposed by the EU authorities are not specific enough, while their debt sustainability projections are ill-defined.
De tentoonstelling ‘De Laatste Batakkoning’ in 2008 in Museum Bronbeek en het daaraan gekoppelde boek gaven een helder beeld wat er voorafging aan de dood van Si Singamangaraja. Het boek, grotendeels samengesteld uit onderzoek van Harm Stevens, is voorzien van vele originele documenten die de lezer meeneemt naar een roerige tijd. Een periode waarin de laatste verzetshaarden worden uitgeschakeld en grote delen van het archipel worden onderworpen aan het koloniaal gezag.
Over de momenten van het leven van de Batakkoning bestaan verschillende lezingen. Met het ontsluiten van een oude foto, met daarop een inheemse ex-militair met onderschrift ‘Oppasser van overste Veltman’ kwamen er nieuwe feiten aan het licht.
De twaalfde Si Singamangaraja
Ompoe Pulo Batu was de twaalfde Si Singamangaraja ofwel Leeuwenvorst in erfopvolging en gold voor zijn volk als heilige. Door een sluier van mystiek die om hem heen hing en zijn hiërarchische positie in de lijn van de offerpriesters, werd hij door de westerse wereld aangeduid als de priestervorst. De in 1849 geboren priestervorst had zich net als de twee voorgaande Si Singamangaraja’s gevestigd in Bakara, gelegen ten zuidwesten van het Tobameer op Noord-Sumatra. De Bataks, gevestigd rond het Tobameer, leefden veelal autonoom en vormden midden negentiende eeuw nog niet een volk. Maar door het opdringen van het Nederlands-gouvernement en de steeds groter wordende invloed van de zending, onder aanvoering van veelal Duitse zendelingen in de laatste kwart van de negentiende eeuw, kregen de Bataks een gemeenschappelijke vijand. Dit leidde in 1883 tot een opstand onder ruim 9000 Toba-Bataks gericht tegen de westerse indringers. Door het geweld ging alles wat westers was in rook op, maar ook de bekeerde Batak-kampongs moesten het ontgelden. De schrik zat er goed in bij de Europeanen en zij velen verlieten hals over kop het Batak-gebied. De priestervorst werd gezien als leider van deze opstand en het Nederlands-gouvernement gelastte in datzelfde jaar het Nederlands Indisch Leger met een strafexpeditie tegen de priestervorst. 4 maanden lang woedde er oorlog het Batak-gebied. Nadat het Nederlands Indisch Leger op 12 augustus zijn residentie in Bakara had bereikt, was de priestervorst al met zijn gevolg gevlucht naar Lintong in de hoger gelegen oerwouden ten zuiden van het Tobameer. Bakara werd door het Nederlands Indisch Leger ‘getuchtigd’ of beter gezegd, geheel verwoest. Het zou tot 1904 duren voor er een nieuwe serieuze poging werd ondernomen om het verzet te breken. De tocht van overste Van Daalen door de Gajo, Alas en Bataklanden, maakte aan vele illusies van het verzet in de binnenlanden van Noord-Sumatra snel een eind. Met een golf van geweld trokken tweehonderd marechaussees ruim vijf maanden lang door de oerwouden van Noord-Sumatra. De marechaussees kwamen ook in het gebied van priestervorst, echter was hij net als in 1883 niet vindbaar. Met de expeditie van Hendrikus Colijn, de latere minister-president van Nederland, werd eind 1904 een nieuwe poging ondernomen. Ook toen werd er geen contact gemaakt met de priestervorst.
Brief van Si Singa Mangaradja, die regeert over de Bataks, gericht aan de heer ‘overste generaal, leider van de oorlog van de kompenie’.
‘De brief is aan u gericht omdat u oorlog voert in het land van de Bataks en mijn onderdanen gevangen heeft genomen. Maar ik heb ook woorden ontvangen van de grote heer van Medan en de resident van Tampanoeli (Batak gebied) en van de controleur, zij zeggen geen oorlog te zullen voeren tegen mij en degene waar ik over regeer.
Heb alle betrokkenen een brief gegeven dat er vrede is en ik een oorlog zal voeren tegen de kompenie. Ik zeg nu tegen de ‘overste generaal’, keert gij terug, en ga niet met mij en degene waar ik over regeer in oorlog. Het is toch niet geoorloofd om mij en mijn onderdanen lastig te vallen. Keer terug, anders overtreed u de regeles van de woorden van vrede en afspraak, die gemaakt zijn met de resident van Medan.
En als er klachten zijn over mijn onderdanen, richt u tot mij. Mijn onderdanen willen geen moeilijkheden.
Keer terug, anders overtreed u de regeles van de woorden van vrede en afspraak, die gemaakt zijn met de resident van Medan.
Zo zij het.
3 november 1904′
In de daaropvolgende jaren werden diverse kleine expedities ondernomen om de priestervorst op te sporen, echter zonder resultaat. Op 1 maart 1907 deed assistent-resident der Bataklanden een oproep aan het gouvernement. De onrust, die de ongrijpbare priestervorst met zich mee bracht, moest snel ten einde worden gebracht. Zijn oproep luidde letterlijk: “De buitengewone toestand eischt daarom buitengewone maatregelen: tydelijke verwydering van alle ongewenste elementen en de beschikbaarstelling van eenige flinke marechaussee onder een beproefde aanvoerder b.v. de kapitein Christoffel, aan wien zooveel mogelyk de vrye hand moet worden gelaten…..”.
Having trouble finding and keeping work? – Build that wall.
Fearful of terrorist attacks? – Ban Muslims.
Want energy security and infrastructure development? – Build that pipeline.
The best antidote to Trump’s xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and fossil-fuel soaked future is critical thinking. Join the Zinn Education Project in helping students probe the roots of social problems and call into question the phony, simple-minded policy prescriptions of the Trump regime.
These are just a few of the resources we have at the Zinn Education Project to help students think deeply and creatively about the world we live in.
Use these resources with your students. Share them with your colleagues.
Today’s border with Mexico is the product of invasion and war. Grasping some of the motives for that war and some of its immediate effects begins to provide students the kind of historical context that is crucial for thinking intelligently about the line that separates the United States and Mexico. It also gives students insights into the justifications for and costs of war today. Teaching Activity by Bill Bigelow.
-The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration
-Tackling Terrorism and Anti-Muslim Rhetoric. A People’s History of Muslims in the United States. What school textbooks and the media miss
The ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’ of the Kalahari could well be called an iconographic people. Partly as a result of this, over the years abundant social research has been carried out among the San. Keyan Tomaselli and his research team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa form part of that tradition; however, in this book Tomaselli is also able to reflect critically, and not without a touch of irony, on the way the San have been represented over the years. Hardly ever has there been a researcher who so uncompromisingly and aptly illustrates the many ethical contradictions in doing fieldwork among the San, and at the same time manages to reconstruct and represent the actual fieldwork experience and the San people so vividly that you almost taste the dust of the Kalahari and smell the raucous world that is depicted.
Note on the Author
Keyan G. Tomaselli is Professor in Culture, Communication and Media Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban. He is a Fellow of the University and serves on the advisory board of !Kwa ttu – The San Cultural and Educational Centre. He is Old World book review editor of Visual Anthropology, and has published on visual anthropology in this and other publications such as Appropriating images: The semiotics of visual representation (Intervention Press, 1999). Other journals in which Tomaselli has published include: Visual Studies, Cultural Studies, Journal of Film and Video, Research in African Literatures, etc. He is published in translation in Italian, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Arabic, amongst others. Tomaselli is editor-in-chief of Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural and Media Studies.
Acknowledgements, Acronyms, A Note on Pronunciation
Starting Off – Different people, different communities – Specifically, what are we doing?
Chapter 1. Negotiating Research with First Peoples
Chapter 2. Reverse Cultural Studies: Field Methods, Power Relations and 4X4s …
Chapter 3. ‘Dit is die Here se Asem’: The Wind, its Messages, and Issues of Autoethnographic Methodology in the Kalahari
Chapter 4. ‘Op die Grond’: Writing in the San/d, Surviving Crime
Chapter 5. Psychospiritual Ecoscience: The Ju/’hoansi and Cultural Tourism
Chapter 6. Textualising the San ‘Past’: Dancing With Development
Chapter 7. Stories to Tell, Stories to Sell: Hidden transcripts, negotiating texts
© Keyan G. Tomaselli, 2005
Cover photograph: Frederik J Lange (Jnr). Taken between Witdraai and Welkom, Northern Cape, June 2005.
Coverdesign: Ingrid Bouws, Amsterdam
Editing: Saskia Stehouwer
Published by Rozenberg Publishers, Amsterdam, 2005, ISBN 90 5170 481 X
The research on which this book reports is greatly indebted to The Protea Hotel, Upington, for sponsorship of accommodation on the way to and back from the Kalahari. Riann and Jeannne de Klerk, Bill and Kathy Fisher, and Kathleen and Willie Burger provided other accommodations in Upington at one time or another. Thanks to the Molopo Lodge for dealing with our often-idiosyncratic requests, like students having to study and write exams during fieldtrips.
To Bronwyn Spicer, who worked as my editorial assistant on this book, my abiding and enduring appreciation. Thanks to Kamini Moodley, the project’s research manager, who worked hard and diligently behind the scenes, and also assisted with copyediting. In field trip and research management Kamini was preceded by Vanessa McLennan-Dodd, and Chantel Oosthuysen. My thanks also to Catherine Dunphy for copyediting. Nelia Oets was a superb camp provider, translator and co-researcher. Nelia was always ready to volunteer her 4X4 for our visits to the Kalahari and assisted in many other roles. Our research team could not have accomplished as much as it did without her consistent and systematic support – both in material resources and intellectually. Thanks to all my students and research affiliates who contributed to the project over the ten-year study period. All have been an inspiration to me and have provided significant depth to the analysis. (A second strand of this project has been conducted in Zululand, not reported on here.) Contributors are listed in Table 1 in Chapter 2 together with the their publications and thesis titles. A special mention must go to Mary Lange who acted as facilitator, translator, and advisor and who brought a unique empathy to our research relations with our hosts. Arnold Shepperson was an ever-present intellectual source in both this and other of our publications on the topic. Thanks to all our partners in the Kalahari, Belinda Kruiper, Roger Carter and all those who engaged in discussion with us. Paul Rodda provided computer support.
The research was partly funded by the University of Natal’s Research Fund, now the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The National Research Foundation also funded it: Social Sciences and Humanities. Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at are those of the author and not the Foundation. An UKZN-based Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship enabled Matthew Durington to join the project for 18 months. His critique of an earlier draft of Chapter 2 proved very helpful. The research was started while I was a Fulbright researcher in the African Studies Center, Michigan State University, 1990-1, working on its African Media Program.
Other organisations which facilitated aspects of our research at one time or another include the Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution; Documentary Educational Resources; the Working Indigenous Minorities Group; the South African San Institute; the Nquaa Khobee Zeya Trust, the Kuru Development Trust; and Rob Waldron.
I must also mention Jake Homiak whose early support via the Smithsonian’s Human Studies Film Archives underpinned the early stages of the research. Others on whom my students and I have drawn include John and Lorna Marshall, Cynthia Close, Fiona Archer, Nigel Crawhall, Meryl-Joy Winschutt, amongst many others. I am also deeply appreciative of the sustained support and encouragement for our autoethnographic turn offered by Norman Denzin of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Thanks also to Frans Prins, Bob Hitchcock, Garth Allen, Megan Biesele, Dave Wiley, amongst many others, who have liaised with me and some of my students on our work.
Chapter 1, ‘Negotiating Research with First Peoples’, is revised, adapted and updated from Shepperson, A. and Tomaselli, K.G. (Eds) (2003), ‘From one to an-other: Auto-ethnographic explorations in Southern Africa’, Cultural Studies – Critical Methodologies, 4(4). Chapter 2 is a very extensively updated, totally revised and much elaborated version of my earlier article, ‘Blue is hot, red is cold: Doing reverse cultural studies in Africa’, first published in Cultural Studies – Critical Methodologies, 1(3), 2001. Chapter 3, ‘Dit is die Here se Asem: The Wind and its Messages’ is adapted from Cultural Studies – Critical Methodologies, 3(4), 2003. Chapter 4, ‘“Op die Grond”: Writing in the San/d, Surviving Crime’, is revised from Current Writing: Text and Reception in Southern Africa, 15(3), 2003. Chapter 5, ‘Psychospiritual Ecoscience: The Ju/’hoansi and Cultural Tourism’, and Chapter 6, ‘Textualising the San “Past”: Dancing with Development’, are revised from Visual Anthropology, 12(3/4), 1999. Chapter 7, ‘Stories to Tell, Stories to Sell: Resisting Textualisation’, is adapted, revised and updated from Cultural Studies, 17(6), 2003. My thanks to the various publishers for permission to rework these articles into this book.
Keyan G. Tomaselli, August 2005
- CCMS Culture, Communication and Media Studies (University of KwaZulu-Natal) (Howard College Campus, Durban)
- CKGR Central Kalahari Game Reserve
- IGWIA International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs
- CPA Community Property Association (Based in Andriesvale)
- CRAM Cultural Resources Auditing and Management Project
- JFP Jesus Film Project (Based in Kimberly)
- LIFE Living in a Finite Environment Program
- NNDFN Nyae Nyae Development Foundation of Namibia (Based in Windhoek)
- NNFC Nyae Nyae Farmers’ Cooperative (Based in Baraka)
- SABC South African Broadcasting Corporation
- SASI South African San Institute (Based in Kimberley)
- SBB Safaris Botswana Bound (Based in Maun, operating in KD/1 Area)
- SI Survival International
- SIM Serving in Mission
- SACOD Southern African Communications for Development
- SWAA South West African Administration
- SWAPO South West African People’s Organisation
- WIMSA Working Group for Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (Based in Windhoek, Namibia)
A Note on Pronunciation
All !Kung and San languages have clicks, which are additional consonants. The most commonly used clicks are:
≠ Alveolar click made by sucking the tongue against the ridge behind the upper front teeth.
// Lateral click made at the side of the mouth.
! Palatal click made by clicking the tongue on the roof of the palate.
For further information on language see Dickens and Traill (1997); Dickens (1992); Barnard (1992: xix-xxii).
Red sand dunes are set against an endless sky of indigo blue.
At night the Milky Way envelops a seemingly untouched land.
People who come here are changed forever
(Molopo Lodge brochure).
This book deals with three geographically discrete groups of people generally referred to as ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’. The controversial debates on naming are well known (Gordon 1990a) and need brief mention here. The politically correct terms are ‘San’ in South Africa and Namibia and, in Botswana, the official naming is ‘Basarwa’ (singular ‘Mosarwa’). I will however use the clan names of the communities with which my students and I have been working, e.g., Ju/’hoansi (pronounced ju-twan-si), ≠Khomani and !Xoo. Often those who call themselves ‘Bushmen’ or ‘Boesmanne’, do so as a form of resistance against the politically correct externally imposed naming (Bregin and Kruiper 2004: 52-5). San is derived from a Nama word, meaning bandit (Barnard 1992: xxiv, 8; Hahn 1881: 3), while Saa means ‘to pick things up’ or forage. It is in this context that I will occasionally use the term Bushmen. Single quotes indicate where I am distancing myself from such use.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park spans both South Africa and Botswana. It features endless rolling dunes with shrubby vegetation and isolated tall savannah thorn trees. The semi-desert is interspersed with numerous pans, ranging from small to well over 50 kms in diameter. The communities with which we worked resided in three locations, Ngwatle in south central Botswana, Witdraai and Blinkwater in the Northern Cape, and the Nyae Nyae, Eastern Bushmanland, Namibia.
Ngwatle was a community of perhaps 100 plus displaced people in 1995, with over 184 in 2004. It is located in the controlled Hunting Area called the Kgalagadi District 1 (KD/1). KD/1 is 13,000 km squared and three villages within its boundary include Ngwatle, Ukwi and Ncaang. It has a total population of about 800. In 2001, the villagers told us that the number had risen to 200 plus, the majority being inkomers (newcomers/incomers) mostly of Kgalagadi origin. The !Xoo are the majority at Ngwatle during hard times, but sometimes become a minority in good periods of rain. Ngwatle is living on borrowed time: the villagers have been told to move to other settlements, as the area is reserved for wild animals. Their response is one of resistance, a refusal to move, and requests to publicize their plight.
Ngwatle consists of two main ethnic groups: The !Xoo and the Bakgalagadi, although the !Xoo typically build their shelters away from the Bakgalagadi. The Ngwatle Basarwa community comprises a mixture of Bakgalagadi and !Xoo who have defined themselves as Bushmen. This small group coalesced around two Afrikaans-speaking !Xoo brothers in the late 1980s (Simões 2001a).
The community is severely poverty-stricken and is serviced by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), some state departments, and a safari company (Flyman 2001). ‘Destitute rations’ are delivered monthly to a third of the Ngwatle population. In July 2004, we watched as the district officials placed 66 rations of maize meal, sorghum, tea, cooking oil, etc. on a large tarpaulin on the sand, readied for distribution. The goods looked like a multi-coloured miniature magic city glistening in the fading sunlight. Those who qualified for these rations also received a monthly allowance of P55 [i] from the Department of Pensions. The community is supplied with one water tank that is filled approximately every two weeks by the government. The larger settlements are also provided with salt water for their livestock. However, because Ngwatle is deemed too small, its villagers have little option but to share their water supply with domestic animals. Their main cash income is through craft sales to tourists, roadwork for the government and through various opportunities available via the Nqwaa Khobee Xeya Trust.[ii] Read more
In moving from ‘here’ (Durban) to ‘there’ (Kalahari Desert), CCMS researchers and students had to rethink their research assumptions, identities and even their understanding of cultural studies.
The research team’s respective journeys have positioned us, at different times, as insiders and outsiders, as heroes and villains, and as reporters evaluating the said in terms of the more usually unsaid. The complexity and tensions of relationships in Kalahari research is extraordinary, given the relatively small numbers of ‘Bushmen’ who are subject to the intense Western gaze (by researchers, NGOs, film makers, journalists, writers and photographers, many of whom serve audiences of hundreds of millions). Indeed, the nature of this kind of research can be seen as a passage through difficult and scantily known rapids, despite the volumes of published work on specific communities. But in another sense, the passage is more that of a group of individuals with divergent positions, interests or aims, researching together and establishing a consensual position on which their differences may be resolved or accommodated (Shepperson 1998: 348). How do we, the researchers, apprehend, write about and agree or disagree on our observations, interpretations and explanations, and how do we negotiate these with our hosts?
When the first draft of Chapter 7 was circulated for comment, the responses were striking, ranging from outright anger from one NGO-consultant to empathy from most academics, researchers, development workers and those who have had long associations with the ≠Khomani. A few of our often marginalized ≠Khomani sources were ecstatic as it seemed to them that they had finally found a team of researchers who perhaps understood their frustrations, hopes and fears, and who were able to communicate these in understandable terms. We spoke to ordinary people, and to some who had married into the clan. Each engaged with us on our objectives and we on theirs. We soon realised that research encounters are often rearticulated by some of our informants into discourses of begging, poverty, hunger and complaints of exploitation at the hands of journalists, photographers and researchers (especially amongst the Kruipers of the Northern Cape).
We further sensed palpable relief from such correspondents that someone was at last critically examining development politics and research ethics, and engaging practices previously conducted in relative silence. Coming in from the cold (to Tomaselli, if no-one else), a few of these individuals started to write, dictate on tape, and e-mail him their own stories about themselves and their relations with ≠Khomani personalities, researchers, writers, video producers, and all manner of visitors. One or two expressed feelings of liberation as they no longer felt ‘trapped’ within their insufferable ‘own experiences’, some excruciatingly painful, and others extraordinarily heart-warming (cf. for example Bregin and Kruiper 2004). The unpublished stories are both horrific in their implications, and revealing in their stoicism. They had a sense of an emergent and empathetic community of researchers with whom they could do business, and to whom our correspondents could relate their frustrations, fears, and discontentment. But for obvious reasons many of these stories have to remain part of the hidden transcript, the unsaid contingent upon the community and the resolution of its participants.
‘Paradigm fundamentalism’ can easily occur if a scholar remains locked into the research programmes or theoretical structures inherited from preferred theoretical canons. Hidden transcripts, or at least their effects, tend to be suppressed by researchers because they are messy and get in the way of theory. In this kind of situation, students begin their assessment according to a canon provided a priori through the prescribed and recommended readings of various courses. What makes it specifically ‘fundamentalism’ is when the scholar either: (a) decides that items excluded from the canonical list ought not to be read; or (b) seeks to enrol with the consensus-making apparatus that establishes the ‘canonicity’ of prescribed and recommended readings. During our research period some scholars and films became persona non grata as epistemological battles were waged over legitimacy of interpretation (cf. Wilmsen 1989; Wilmsen and Denbow 1990 and responses to them; Barnard et al. 1996; Marshall 1996; Biesele and Hitchcock 1999; cf. also Gordon 1990b).
Despite the somewhat conspiratorial narrative inscribed in this thumbnail sketch of the academy, it is designed to illustrate one possible aspect of the shift in the intellectual vista open to South African academics, development activists, public intellectuals, and other such practitioners. Our (often retrospectively constructed) past as participants in the final struggles against apartheid frequently involved exactly this kind of struggle for canonical hegemony. Leftists of all stripes railed against the apparently monolithic preferences of bourgeois literary and theoretical canons, all the while engaging each other in (mostly) bloodless but nevertheless near-mortal theoretical combat over what should be the canon of the Left. The same kind of bitter conflict occurred over studies of the San, their naming and on who could speak for whom, when, where, and how.[i] The aprioristic nature of canonical thinking amongst both the observers and the observed is far more a feature of both postmodern and modernist thinking than their respective adherents would like to admit. As we discovered among the different subject-communities during our research, the inherent fundamentalism of these traditions (in much the sense that Alasdair MacIntyre  deploys the term) tends to slide glibly over the pre-theoretical, ‘shit happens’ kind of realism that shapes the everyday conduct of peoples like the !Xoo, the Ju/’hoansi and the ≠Khomani. Read more