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Rethinking Indigeneity

Discursive Negotiations via Cultural Tourism and Community-Lodge Partnerships

Strategies proposed by pro-poor tourism (PPT) (Ashley et al 2001a, 2001b) will be tested with regard to a case study of !Xaus Lodge (website: www.xauslodge.co.za ). PPT might be able to mobilise ethnic identities, indigeneity and performance as culturally sensitive marketing factors while also underpinning viable tourism/lodge-community partnerships embedded in appropriate development strategies. A puzzling feature of postcolonial life is that primordialized and essentialized representations of primitive ‘Bushmen’ are being vigorously reasserted in the media and NGO rhetoric at the very moment that the San are beginning to engage the world politically (Sylvain 2005: 354). This study will interrogate the reasons for the (re-)emergence of this discourse, and work with our subject communities in developing participatory research strategies to engage it, and to create the conditions for a discursive negotiation which includes the `other’-wise represented communities themselves. We thereby hope to reveal the nature of San historical and contemporary take(s) on such Western concepts such as `quality of life’ and `standard of living’ and, in particular, the dynamic of notions of economic justice and fairness.

Our generic framing research questions include:

  1. If indigeneity involves the contemporary performance of self that enacts a restoration of relations to one’s past, what is the historical relationship of indigenous communities to especially film, television and tourism?
  2. Given that the Indigene’s historically unacknowledged claim to political primacy casts the constitutionality of ALL frameworks of relation to crisis, what are appropriate bases for a research and other kinds of relationship between the Indigene and the academic?
  3. How do the relationships of Indigenous communities to their land, their natural environment, the built environment, and place function in a contemporary era of environmental concern conceived largely through Western practices? (Questions framed in conjunction with Nicholls and Murray, see below under Co-investigators.)

Specific research questions include:
  1. Can the just-inaugurated !Xaus Lodge development experiment be used as a general model for PPT?
  2. Will the model generate a culturally sensitive and business-savvy community-lodge partnership? Using !Xaus Lodge as a benchmark, the study will examine issues of indigeneity, representation, and cultural tourism within lodge-community relations, with reference to other San community-lodge developments and 'cultural' sites such as Mabilingwe, and the unsuccessful Kagga Kamma and Ostri-San ventures. The Zulu cultural villages and lodges of Shakaland, Simunye, Stewart’s Farm and Sibaya etc. will be offered as comparative case studies. (These will be the focus of Peter Pels of Leiden University, see under Co-investigators.)
  3. How will =Khomani employed at !Xaus Lodge construct, negotiate and rearticulate their discursive cultural and environmental resources of 'authenticity', indigeneity and their First People status in terms of tourist expectations, interactions and media discourses?
  4. How will this specific indigenous articulation negotiate, shape and engage broader popular discourses 'about the Bushmen'? In other words, what forms does it take and how is it dealt with in the contemporary world?
  5. What kinds of generalised community-lodge partnerships can be designed to best negotiate the demands of cultural marketing on the one hand, and the symbolic, spiritual and livelihood needs of a cultural community of practice on the other?

The proposed study continues a 20 year, five phase project, on issues relating to the Kalahari San. This research has involved nearly 80 Honours, MA and PhD students registered at UKZN, and a number of local and international research affiliates since 1995. The project has been characterized by co-terminous, intersecting, and ongoing research phases: Phase 1 introduced analysis of cinematic and television representations of the San and Zulu (1986ff). Phase 2, titled the “Semiotics of the Encounter”, required extensive empirical fieldwork with three communities, one each in Namibia (the Ju/’hoansi, Eastern Bushmanland), Botswana (the !Xoo, Ngwatle) and the Northern Cape (the =Khomani, Witdraaai) and amongst Zulu-speaking San descendants (the Duma) in the Kamberg, KwaZulu-Natal (1995ff). This second phase introduced analysis on cultural tourism, identity, performance and resistance in both the Kalahari and in KwaZulu-Natal. It also examined researcher-researched relations, and provided the basis for the systematic development of auto-ethnographic and participatory field research methods. Phase 3, “From Observation to Development” (2003ff), incorporated research on development communication, media production and reception, and policy (the Gwi and Gana, Botswana), livelihoods (Ngwatle), micro-enterprises (=Khomani) and community radio as a development medium (the !Xu and Kwe in Platfontein).

Deriving out of the three phases is the fourth research phase, for which this application is being submitted. This phase will examine a specific development project: the genesis, establishment and performance of !Xaus Lodge, co-owned by the =Khomani and Mier communities. It will rethink the place of Indigeneity – a status usually accorded to “remnant prior peoples living on their former lands in the margins of nation states” (Barry Barclay, Leeds hui Postcolonial Studies tends to assume a history in which an evolution to the post-essentialist hybrid, migrant or diasporic identities associated with the contemporary globalised world, has occurred from an identitarian nativism associated with anti-colonial nationalisms in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result of this implicitly progressivist model, Indigeneity is sometimes construed as a throwback to long-defunct Manichean categories formed in opposition and resistance, rather than as a meaningful contemporary claim upon the world. How these categories are negotiated by the San (Mier and Zulu) will be examined (cf. Clelland-Stokes 2007) (for publication details click here). How will the Mier present their own sense of indigeneity, if any, in the context of the Lodge? How will they negotiate their common and different heritages to the =Khomani? meeting 2006) - in contemporary Postcolonial Studies. (This categorisation may not apply to the way that the Mier represent themselves vis-à-vis the =Khomani.)

Phase 5 (2010-2015) is envisaged to start towards the middle of Phase 4. This will offer strategies and models for implementation of what has been learned from Phases 1-4 as we seek to generalize the model across other community-lodge/park/hotel ventures in the region.


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