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Representing Bushmen

Representing Bushmen: South Africa and the Origin of Language

Shane Moran
Volume: 38
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 222
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  • Book Info
    Representing Bushmen
    Book Description:

    Representing Bushmen draws on the work of Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, and Martin Bernal to show how the study of language was integral to the formation of racial discrimination in South Africa. Author Shane Moran demonstrates the central role of literar

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-731-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Note to the Reader
    (pp. x-x)
  6. 1 Introduction: Unity in Diversity
    (pp. 1-18)

    Imagine a burning hotel. Of the one hundred people inside, the stranded delegates from a conference on the representation of indigenous peoples, it is only possible to save fifty. There happens to be just that number of South African San or Bushman guests trapped in the flames. Despite the commitment to a universal principle rejecting any appeal to race as arbitrary, is it not reasonable to save them before the other guests because of the obligation to preserve threatened cultures? Doesn’t a sense of the injustices of history, and the spirit of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, demand...

  7. 2 Colonial Intellectual
    (pp. 19-30)

    How does one approach the texts of colonialism—texts overtly marked with the violence of expropriation? The methodological question concerning how we should initially approach and subsequently pursue a given subject matter leads to problems that complicate the security of the process of analysis: for example, from where one takes such texts is part of the problem at issue; as is the question of who is addressing this question, and to whom; and of course, how one approaches this questioning is as much a matter of intellectual tradition and protocol as it is of motivation and intention. From the very...

  8. 3 On the Origin
    (pp. 31-47)

    In his discussion of the semantics of historical time and the origins of historiography, Reinhart Koselleck notes the precedence of the optical (the primacy of eyewitness testimony to historical knowledge), and the importance of the metaphor of the mirror and of reflection.¹ History as event and representation, the retrospective structuration of the past—the narrative of former presents that develops into a reflective re-presentation of the past that is acknowledged in its foreignness—is at the same time reflective knowledge of itself. Remarking that, until the eighteenth century, the contrast we take for granted between history and nature did not...

  9. 4 Human/Animal
    (pp. 48-66)

    When J.M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello delivers a lecture on the lives of animals, the target is not simply the inhumanity and irrationality of man but also the myth of progress. Costello speculates that Wolfgang Kohler’s experiments with apes in Tenerife were known to Kafka as he wrote “AReport to an Academy ” in which a chimpanzee narrates his assimilation and civilization.¹ At issue is the nature of animal intelligence, or rather the need to distinguish human from animal intelligence, and the link between this and dehumanization. And at stake in the question of animality is the constitutive limit of the...

  10. 5 Writing Bushmen
    (pp. 67-79)

    In his discussion of the radical translations effected as part of the colonial encounter, Stephen Greenblatt remarks on the importance of gesture. Prospective colonialists resorted to improvised communicative signs, a universal language of hands according to writers such as Augustine and Quintillian, involving the whole body, common to all people.¹ Against the privilege granted to writing in accounts of the conquest of America, Greenblatt argues that the initial moments of encounter—defined by three modes of communication: mute signs, material exchange, and language—do not utilize the technology of writing. This, then, is how we read and make signs to...

  11. 6 Language and Blood
    (pp. 80-95)

    This chapter will move out from the infrastructure of Bleek’s theory in the essay on the origin of language to assess the claim that Bleek participated in the formation of South African racism. According to Andrew Bank, Bleek “was in many respects the author of a modern understanding of race, South Africa’s first systematic theorist of racial difference.”¹ I will argue that if, as Saul Dubow claims, Bleek “helped to inaugurate a tradition of comparative philology in South Africa in which historical narrative was linked into the competitive struggle between races,”² there is a need to acknowledge that the conception...

  12. 7 Colonial Family Crypt
    (pp. 96-113)

    I propose to continue to move out from the essay on the origin of language and the comparative grammar to consider material collected in Bleek’s Natal diaries. Here the autobiographical and the theoretical intertwine. The universal philologist’s account of his travels in one of the most heavily evangelized territories in the world provides an invaluable perspective on the formation of South African colonial ideology.¹ Having stressed what was brought to Africa, I will now extend the argument that Bleek did not simply transpose metropolitan modes of conceptuality to the colonies, but responded to the dynamics of the colonial context. Nowhere...

  13. 8 Bushman Literature
    (pp. 114-127)

    In Mary Shelley’s contribution to modern mythology, Frankenstein, or the New Prometheus, the Monster (another victim of naming) tells his story. We see him watching a loving family in their forest cottage and discovering that people possess a method of communicating their experiences and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. Determined to learn language and have his humanity recognized, he discerns the ideas appropriated to sounds and labors at both pronunciation and the clandestine replenishing of their store of wood as if by an invisible hand. Eventually he can comprehend and imitate almost every word that is spoken, and...

  14. 9 Conclusion: Presentiment
    (pp. 128-148)

    In the opening chapter of Jules Verne’s novel, Measuring a Meridean: The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa, first published in 1874, a spectacular landscape on the banks of the Orange River is unveiled. Amidst insurmountable rocks, imposing masses of stones, deep caverns, impenetrable forests not yet disturbed by the settler’s axe, two men gaze down into a gulf from which arises a deafening roar, increased and varied by the echoes of the valley. Drawn into this part of South Africa by the chances of an exploration, the men are waiting for the arrival of a...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 149-186)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-206)
  17. Index
    (pp. 207-210)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 211-211)