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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

WHERE GLOBAL CONTRADICTIONS ARE SHARPEST (article first published : 2006-12-2)

Recently launched at5 Bergtheil Museum by Adams & Co. Booksellers of West Street and the Centre for Culture & Media Studies (UKZN), Where Global Contradictions are Sharpest: Research stories from the Kalahari is produced by Rozenberg Publishers.The ‘Bushmen’ or ‘San’ of the Kalahari could well be called an iconographic people. Partly as a result of this, abundant social research has been carried out among the San. Professor Keyan Tomaselli and his research team from the University of KZN form part of that research.

However, in this book, Keyan Tomaselli is also able to reflect critically, and not without a touch of irony, on the way the San have been represented. He reconstructs and represents the actual fieldwork experience and aptly illustrates the many ethical contradictions in doing fieldwork among the San.

This book deals with three geographically discrete groups of San - the !Xoo from Ngwatle in south central Botswana, 200km further south the #Khomani and the Ju/’hoansi in Nyae Nyae, Eastern Bushmanland, Namibia. The San’s encounter with modernity has had a negative impact on their social fabric, more so in the Kruiper clan of the #Khomani community where alcohol abuse, death by AIDS, murder or domestic violence are prevalent. Perpetrators were not held accountable by the police, indeed the police may have been part of the problem (as highlighted on SABC3’s Special Assignment).

Chapter 2 titled Reverse Cultural Studies, Field Methods, Power Relations and 4 x 4s, is a diary of roughly 15 visits to the Kalahari between 1995 and 2005 and will appeal to the general reader where the idiosyncrasies of other researchers, tourists, missionaries, evangelists and the like are laid bare.

The ‘academic’ title and sub-title of this book puts at risk the loss of many a general reader who might shy away at first glance. It is hoped with the local availability of this important publication, more South Africans will be exposed to this extensive research, be better informed about the realities of the San community in the 21st Century and impart this knowledge to future visitors.

As the research team says: “We are concerned with the webs of research, exploitation and deceit that so often cloud academic and journalistic research in the Kalahari. Who is drawing the line around whom?”

Where Global Contradictions are Sharpest: Research stories from the Kalahari is available from Adams book shops in Musgrave, city centre and KZN campus.




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