11
Reflections and Conclusions

Anthropological theory is like pop music. It goes through great changes with each generation, but every generation prefers the style of its own youth to what follows. Add to that the fact that practitioners of hunter-gatherer studies are more cautious and at the same time more profound than those in other branches of anthropology; even younger practitioners are drawn to the field by the search for answers to some of anthropology's really big and really old questions. Thus there remain latent structuralists and even Marxists in hunter-gatherer studies today. In the past few decades, trends in the sub-discipline have moved to greater concerns with indigenous voices and towards political action, but only very rarely to any sort of postmodernist rejection of scientific understanding.

With this in mind, it is worthwhile to reflect once more on current political challenges in San studies and on anthropology's impact on them and their challenge to anthropological theory, and finally to the historical interpretation of our discipline.


San as an Indigenous People

It should be no surprise to the initiate in hunter-gatherer studies that the 'Man the Hunter' ethos is still strong. There are some who do not appreciate such theoretical conservatism, but in fact, and in spite of many differences in both method and theory, the quest for 'the hunter' still unites Western and Eastern (Japanese) traditions in the field. This image of 'the hunter' is also what unites these anthropological traditions with non-hunter-gatherer Africa. Not only African anthropology, but African politics and popular culture too contain visions of the 'Bushman' or the 'Pygmy', with either positive or negative stereotypes. Within Western anthropology, such stereotypes have become fuzzier in recent years, and to my mind this is no bad thing. The 'indigenous peoples' debate is no doubt partly responsible for this. Indeed, my own position, while clear in my mind, is intrinsically muddy in practice: I favour Kuper's (2003) side within anthropological theory, but his opponents' side in the practical pursuit of political goals. In other words, 'indigeneity' may be defined relationally (in practical politics), but not in essence (in anthropological theory). In 'Kalahari Revisionism, Vienna, and the “Indigenous Peoples” Debate' (Barnard 2006), I remarked that participants in the Kalahari debate and in

-143-

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Anthropology and the Bushman
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: From Early Encounters to Early Anthropology 11
  • 3: Victorian Visions of the Bushman 23
  • 4: Beckoning of the Kalahari 39
  • 5: Amateurs and Cultural Ecologists 53
  • 6: An Original Affluent Society? 67
  • 7: The Return of Myth and Symbol 83
  • 8: Kalahari Revisionism and Portrayals of Contact 97
  • 9: Advocacy, Development and Partnership 113
  • 10: Representations and Self-Representations 129
  • 11: Reflections and Conclusions 143
  • References 149
  • Index 172
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