NGOs, 'Bushmen' and Double Vision: The khomani San Land Claim and the Cultural Politics of 'Community' and 'Development' in the Kalahari.


This article focuses on the ambiguities and contradictions of donor and NGO development discourses in relation to local construction of 'community', cultural authenticity and San identity. It deals specifically with the cultural politics of the successful 1999 khomani San land claim in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. The study investigates local responses to state, NGO and donor discourses on indigenous identity and 'cultural survival'. It shows how strategic narratives of community solidarity, social cohesion and cultural community were produced by claimants and their lawyers during this process. In the post-settlement period, however, social fragmentation and intra-community conflict between \"traditionalists\" and \"western bushmen\" became increasingly evident. These conflicts drew attention to the difficulties of creating community solidarity and viable livelihood strategies in a province characterised by massive unemployment and rural poverty. The paper suggests that these divisions were also a product of the contradictory objectives of NGOs and donors to provide support for traditional leadership, San language and \"cultural survival\" and to inculcate modern/western ideas and democratic practices. Furthermore, despite the thoroughly hybridised character of contemporary San identity, knowledge and practices, San traditionalists appeared to stabilise \"bushmen\" identity by recourse to notions of a \"detribalised Other\" - the \"western bushmen\" living in their midst. It is evident, however, that the \"traditionalist\" versus \"western bushmen\" dichotomy is itself at the heart of donor and NGO development agendas. Consequently, the donor double vision of the San - as both \"First Peoples\" and modern citizens-in-the-making - contributed to these intra-community divisions and conflict.


Journal of Southern African Studies - Vol 27 No 4, pp. 833-853

NGOs, ‘Bushmen’ and Double Vision: The khomani San Land Claim and the Cultural Politics of ‘Community’ and ‘Development’ in the Kalahari.

Published 1 January 2001