Becoming invisible – changing land use practices and identity strategies of the !Xoon in Namibia between the 1920s and 1970s
Abstract!Xoon are a group of former hunter-gatherers who live in the dry southern Kalahari in eastern Namibia. They have been largely overlooked in both the extensive body of anthropological publications on the San and in Namibian historiography. The documentation of former !Xoon land use patterns presented here was undertaken with the aim of countering the invisibility of the !Xoon and is based on biographical and historical narratives describing how the !Xoon adapted their territories, settlement
patterns, subsistence activities and identity strategies during the period under scrutiny. By placing these strategies in academic discussions about San territoriality it will be shown how territorial behaviour was entangled in the historical process. I will then go on to argue that through both geographical and social mobility the !Xoon not only reacted to but also consolidated the expropriation of their lands, reinforced precast
ethnic categories and thus contributed to the fashioning of their own invisibility. Current pressures on San in Namibia to conform to stereotypes of ‘Bushmanness’ in order to be visible and eligible for state benefits are an ironic reflection of former
pressures on San not to be identifiable as stereotypical Bushmen in order to escape state repression.
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