Desert Roads of the KhoeSan

Track near Tsintsabis

In 2002 I gave a presentation in which I mapped out where my initial research sites lay and I superimposed them over those of an ethnographer, Lebzelter, working in the early 20th century. The routes and even the sites were identical because of where the roads lay – and that makes a striking imprint on a map of a country the size of Namibia. It is not that people did not live off the roads but hearing about and  working with less accessible or well-known people takes special effort, awareness and time.

Khokhoe settlement in the Richtersveld

Khokhoe settlement in the Richtersveld

This got me thinking about how accounts of “Others” might be essentialized on the basis of physical, conceptual, political, opportunistic or fiscal factors in the production of  fieldwork. Whilst I was thinking about this three  programmes involving the Ju/’hoansi appeared on the television, one presented by Ian Wright  the footballer, anotherby Ray Mears and a further terrible programme “Fat Men Can’t Hunt” . All three programmes went to the same small area and drew on a group of Ju/’hoansi who were linked to the local tourist operatives. The same key hunters that tourists would be introduced to in Tsumkwe lay behind these programmes. This seemed good evidence of how theopinions of a few, these Ju/’hoansi, were becoming representative of Ju/’hoansi generally. This seemed a blatant example of a phenomenon that happens in more subtle ways in wider fields of anthropology and development.

Kgalagadi Park road, South African / Botswana border fence

Kgalagadi Park road, South African / Botswana border fence

Certainly amongst  ╪Khomani it is the same people who represent  ╪Khomani and mostly reap the benefits of film contracts or other NGO led initiatives. In my presentation in 2002 I framed this phenomenon as ” The Research Funnel”

I feature roads here as both actual and symbolic roots of access. The lion tracks speak of a quieter indigenous presence that takes time to follow but has real consequences when you arrive.

 

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