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University of Toronto (1999)

We work to have life : Ju/’hoan women, work and survival in the Omaheke Region, Namibia

Sylvain, Renée

Titre : We work to have life : Ju/’hoan women, work and survival in the Omaheke Region, Namibia

Auteur : Sylvain, Renée

Université de soutenance : University of Toronto

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 1999

In this thesis I provide an ethnograpic account of the lives of the Jd’hoansi by examining three broad topics : 1) the historical and ideological dynamics of rural class formation and sexual division of labour on the fanns ; 2) the living and working conditions and farrn class politics ; and, 3) Jd’hoan kinship and community dynamics. The first section offers a ’top-down’ perspective of white settlement, frontier confiict aqd the encapsulation of the Jd’hoansi into the political economy and cultural world view of the European settlers. Ideological attitudes toward gender and sexuality are fore-grounded in this examination of the construction of a ’Bushman’ underclass. 1 argue that the process of rural class formation and encapsulation was shaped as much by gender attitudes as by racial ones. The second section provides a ’bottom-up’ perspective of fami work and class politics. 1 focus on how the Jd’hoansi cope with their material conditions, how they understand the value of their own labour, and how they understand their relationships with their employers. 1 then examine how the patemalism inherent to fm politics is shaped by patriarchal models of family government, and how the fanners’ patemalism is accommodated b y Jd’hoan ideas of proper ’ helping ’ and challenged b y the Jul’hoansi’ s commitments to . . 11 their oun farnilies and cornmunit).. 1 argue that patemalism is more particulady a feature of class relations between men : while racial attitudes justimg exploitation and patemalism are more easi ly chal lengeable, gender subordination, being a requisi te of farm employment, is more deeply hegemonic. The third section examines W’hoan kinship relations, marriage patterns and cornrnunity dynamics. 1 focus on how women mobilize support fiom kin in their dealings with domestic conflicts and in their struggles to cope with their matenal conditions. 1 argue that Jd’hoan kin networks provide a field of relative autonomy and that women7s kin-based mutual assistance strategies provide the infrastructure for a broader Jd’hoan community.


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