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Title: Foragers on the frontiers : the |Xam Bushmen of the Northern Cape, South Africa, in the nineteenth century
Author: McGranaghan, Mark
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis constructs an ethnography for the nineteenth century ǀXam Bushmen of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, known primarily through a nineteenth century manuscript collection of oral narrative (the Bleek-Lloyd archive), which has, over the past twenty-five years, increasingly become the focus of scholarly attention, mined for insights about the cultural world of southern Bushman societies. It draws on the Bleek-Lloyd archive to produce a detailed ethnographic case study, focusing on the ideological and ontological concepts that underpinned the differentiation of ǀXam society. Firstly, the thesis situates the archive and ǀXam society within their particular environmental and historical contexts, providing valuable supplementary information that informs readings of the narratives. By producing a fully searchable transcription of the entirety of the archive, paying close attention to emic terminology, and examining the recurrence of thematic associations of this phraseology throughout the narratives, the analysis explores the constitution of ǀXam ‘personhood’ and examines the extent to which the ‘hunter-gatherer’ category forms a useful heuristic for understanding ǀXam society, with a particular focus on models of the ‘animic ontology’. The ǀXam deployed a series of positively and negatively evaluated traits in the creation of dimensions of authority, obligation, and social responsibility, embedded in particular social identities; central to these constructions and to the differentiation of these identities were the techniques and resources of ǀXam subsistence practices, salient in the production of admirable (socially-responsible hunters), reprehensible (antagonistic ‘beasts of prey’), and more ambiguous (ǃgi:tǝn ritual specialists) identities. Recognising this internal differentiation, the thesis outlines ǀXam ‘subsistence strategies’ and suggests they should be defined broadly to include their contacts and interactions with non-ǀXam groups, with domesticated animals, and with the novel material culture of the colonial period; these interactions were a consequence of their ‘hunter-gatherer’ strategies rather than a negation of them. Such strategies generated experiences that reinforced and reconstituted ǀXam ideological frameworks, incorporating the dynamics of the nineteenth century ‘frontier’ scenario and provided avenues for social change that ultimately led to the collapse of independent hunter-gatherer lifeways, and to the adoption of strategies that incorporated ǀXam individuals within rural and urban ‘Coloured’ populations of the Northern Cape; placing the ǀXam in a comparative colonial context, the thesis stresses the wider relevance of this particular ethnography for understanding hunter-gatherer engagements with food-producing, state-level societies.
Supervisor: Mitchell, Peter Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Archeology ; History of Africa ; Anthropology ; Social anthropology ; Khoisan ; hunter-gatherer ; colonial history ; Bushmen ; San ; animism ; shamanism