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Universität zu Köln (2004)

Processes of Social Change against the backdrop of state measures. A case study of the Khwe in West Caprivi/Namibi

Boden, Gertrud

Titre : Prozesse sozialen Wandels vor dem Hintergrund staatlicher Eingriffe : eine Fallstudie zu den Khwe in West Caprivi, Namibia

Processes of Social Change against the backdrop of state measures. A case study of the Khwe in West Caprivi/Namibia

Auteur : Boden, Gertrud

Université de soutenance : Universität zu Köln

Grade : Doktor PhD thesis 2004

The Khwe are Central-Khoisan speakers and classified with the (former) hunter/gatherers who in Southern Africa are called �San� or �Bushmen�. Several times since the middle of the 20th century the political and economic conditions of their lives have changed considerably. The thesis deals with the question how Khwe in different social positions and contexts deal with these changes, which include a number of moral dilemmas and ambivalent trajectories. It also addresses the question how social change can be identified within the scope of a short-term study. --- In the introduction I first explain the level of research as a result of the interests of anthropological theory and the political history of Namibia. A view of the ideas concerning continuity and change within regional-comparative and hunter-gatherer research reveals that the search for commonalities and treatment of commonalities as continuities either leaves social change as unexplored or treats it as a result of outside pressure alone, but does not sufficiently look at the fabrics of effectiveness between structure and individual action. I then present the institutional approach as one that tries to explain social change for all types of societies and offers a number of specific mechanisms : coordination on focal points, selective competition among contracts and bargaining. --- In the main part of the thesis, I look at four central fields of social organization : settlement structures, family structures, group identity and political organization. In the ethnographic description I analytically separate the depiction of concepts and norms from that of strategies and social practice in order to better understand their interrelatedness within the diachronic process. --- The relationship turns out to be threefold : Concepts and norms provide the framework that gives sense and orientation for individual action and structures motivations, interactions and strategies. They constitute the moral arguments and tools for negotiating relationships. And they are the product of individual action including the violation of existing norms. The processes of change I have identified are characterized as adaptation, diversification, creolization, crisis, conformisation, dissociation, transformation and resistance. In all of them continuity and change are complementary and inter-effective. The state turned out to be not only the point of reference for gaining recognition, control over resources and for resistance against marginalization, but also to be essentially constituted by the experiences, fears and claims of the Khwe. Within current political developments it became visible how ambivalent the historic legacy of the Khwe as former clients of Bantu-speakers, privileged people of the colonial administration, soldiers in the colonial army, inhabitants of West Caprivi with its specifically delicate international boundaries, and as indigenous minority in Post-Apartheid Namibia is. --- The thesis is based on 15 months of fieldwork between 1998 and 2003. Many of the data on Khwe history and social organization presented here have never before been the subject of scientific analysis.


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