Anthropology and the Bushman

Anthropology and the Bushman

Anthropology and the Bushman

Anthropology and the Bushman

Synopsis

The Bushman is a perennial but changing image. The transformation of that image is important. It symbolizes the perception of Bushman or San society, of the ideas and values of ethnographers who have worked with Bushman peoples, and those of other anthropologists who use this work. Anthropology and the Bushman covers early travellers and settlers, classic nineteenth and twentieth-century ethnographers, North American and Japanese ecological traditions, the approaches of African ethnographers, and recent work on advocacy and social development. It reveals the impact of Bushman studies on anthropology and on the public. The book highlights how Bushman or San ethnography has contributed to anthropological controversy, for example in the debates on the degree of incorporation of San society within the wider political economy, and on the validity of the case for "indigenous rights" as a special kind of human rights. Examining the changing image of the Bushman, Barnard provides a new contribution to an established anthropology debate.

Excerpt

'The Bushman' is an image that remains in anthropological consciousness, although transformed through history, especially in recent decades. This book is a social and intellectual history ofthat image as handed down to anthropology from earlier anthropologists and archaeologists, social theorists and travellers, and Bushmen and Khoekhoe themselves. It is also an exploration of the diversity of that image, for its appearance changes in space as well as time. 'The Bushman' in contemporary South Africa can be quite different from 'the Bushman' as understood in Japanese or American writings.

One disclaimer: although it has quite a lot of references and covers a long period, this is not intended to be 'the great big book of Bushman studies'. That would take many volumes, each (going backwards in time) probably of interest to fewer and fewer readers. My hope instead is to provide something more readable. My focus is on anthropologists and anthropology, but what is said here should, I hope, be of interest to a much wider public. It may be of interest especially to development practitioners, to scholars in related disciplines such as archaeology and history, and to those of Khoisan descent who simply want to know more about anthropology's involvement in their heritage.

Unless clearly essential for my sense, I shall dispense with quotation marks on words like 'Bushman' throughout. the word is certainly not without its problems. Indeed the same can be said for the currently more politically correct term 'San', which historically and in the Khoekhoe dialects in which it is found has carried connotations of poverty, low status, thievery and scavenging, as well as purposeful foodgathering (that being perhaps its most literal translation). 'Khoisan' today is a word that includes both the 'San' hunter-gatherers and the 'Khoikhoi' or 'Khoekhoe' herder-hunter-gatherers. Most of this book concerns the former and those anthropologists who have worked with them, although throughout much of the history of these studies, especially in early times, the place of the 'herders' has been integral to the definition of the 'hunters'. in general, Khoisan names are given in the preferred form of the individuals themselves or, where appropriate, in a simplified Khoisan form rather than a European one – for example, /Han≠kass'o rather than Klein Jantje (the various click symbols are explained in Chapter 1). I should add that there are many Japanese anthropologists among today's Bushman experts, and their names are given in Western form, with given name first and family name last.

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