Land, Water, Truth, and Love - Visions of Identity and Land Access: From Bain's Bushmen to Khomani San



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Entitled Land, Water, Truth, and Love Visions of Identity and Land Access: From Bain s Bushmen to Khomani San this thesis situates the current Khomani claims to land in their historical context. Examining the nexus between land, economic choices, power, and identity, I analyze the construction of the "Bushman myth "in South Africa as it relates to the Khomani San of the Northern Cape. The myth refers to stereotypical depictions of Bushmen based on invented traditions. These traditions are depicted as atavistic manifestations of a historically immutable Bushman ethnicity. Stressing their timelessness and isolation, the Bushman myth thus disregards the San s internal dialectics and fluid social worlds as well as their historical and local relationships to non-San; nevertheless it has come to define the life of the so-called Bain s Bushmen and their descendents during the last 80 years. By tracing the development, application, and appropriation of the Bushman myth and its power to define traditions, I hope to contribute towards a much-needed discussion in the present about multiple identities and Khomani ethnicity. Motivated by a desire to understand the difficulties the Khomani community is facing today, I set out to trace the development of San identity and its relationship to land and the political economy through the past 150 years. My thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in the Northern Cape in South Africa from Cape Town to Upington and on the Khomani land in January and summer 2008. I conducted 42 unstructured and semi-structured interviews with community members and others ranging from lawyers, government officials, to NGO consultants, and engaged in participant observation. The archival work is based on government records, newspaper articles, correspondence, and ethnographic studies collected in six South African archives.



land rights, ethnicity, South Africa, Bushmen, Khomani San, invention of tradition