michael besten on khoe-san authenticity in south africa


Michael P. Besten, ‘Envisioning ancestors: staging of Khoe-San authenticity in South Africa’, Critical Arts 25, 2 (2011).

This article examines the operation of primordialist cultural stereotypes and their impact, particularly on the self-representations of Khoe-San people. The operation of these stereotypes is demonstrated by means of a study of a series of Khoe-San-related public events that occurred between 1996 and 2006. These events also reflected an unfolding Khoe-San revivalism. The article shows how stereotypical presumptions of what Khoe-San are like, have induced people assuming Khoe-San identities to become involved in primordialist self-representations aimed, in part, at legitimating their demands for recognition and related restorative endeavours. It is argued that such deployment of images not only plays on public expectations about the Khoe-San, but that their combination with non-primordialist elements can actually serve to unsettle the pervasive primordialist stereotypes which they invoke.

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