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Centre of African Studies: Research


Paper Details

Author: Alan Barnard

Title: The Present Condition of Busman Groups

Year: 1985

The Bushmen of southern Africa are among the world's last remaining hunter-gatherers. Although most Busmen toay practise some herding or work as wage labourers, their unique cultures survive. Nevertheless the Bushmen are threatened by subjugation and dependency upon other groups, changes in their environment forced upon them by such groups and by goverments, and by militarization. This paper examins Bushman society with special reference to recent changes in their social and economic circumstances. In the the first section an overview of Busman society is presented; this is followed by an outline of the major ethnic and linguistic divisions, and then by a more detailed exposition on each of the groups and their current plight. The groups examined include notably the !Kung, Nharo, Central Kalahari Bushmen, Khow-speaking Bushmen of eastern Botswana, and !xo. The paper concludes with a dsicussion of the prospects for future economic development and its relation to the preservation of the Bushmen and their cultural identity. In particular, the author examines prospects for plant cultivation, livestock rearing, formal education for Bushman children, and access to political power. He argues that, in spite of recent and severe problems caused by drought and by the domination of Bushman groups by outside forces, Bushman culture reamins visible as long as Bushmen are able to retain the opportunity for self-determination.

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