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Khoisan Consciousness: Articulating Indigeneity in Post-Apartheid Cape Town

In: Afrika Focus
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  • 1 Department of History, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • | 2 Department of Anthropology, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa, Rafael.Verbuyst@UGent.be
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Abstract

The Khoisan were decimated, dispossessed and assimilated into the mixed-race “Coloured” group during colonialism and apartheid, spawning the notion of their supposed extinction. However, Cape Town, where colonial history runs deepest, became the epicentre of “Khoisan revivalism” after apartheid. Khoisan revivalists reject Coloured identity and campaign for cultural development, historical justice and indigenous rights. Many also claim land and traditional leadership titles. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among Khoisan revivalists, my PhD dissertation scrutinises Khoisan revivalism’s origins, appeal and political aspirations. It focuses on the various ways that historical events, figures and practices inform diverse articulations of indigeneity. Khoisan revivalists are primarily seeking a relatable connection with the past and select sources, mediums and content accordingly. Moreover, in simultaneously replicating, disregarding and appropriating colonial representations, they produce a “subversive authenticity”. While empowering to many, Khoisan revivalism has also emboldened some to mobilise a racialised identity politics based on prior occupancy, which today extends beyond the movement.

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