AfricaNSFThe Research University (TRU)

Analysis of Recorded Ju/.hoan San Language Events as Political Action, 1990-Present: Biesele, Marguerite A.

Marguerite Biesele

Dr. Megan Biesele will undertake research on changes in political language among the Ju/'hoan San of Namibia and Botswana who are the most extensively studied nomadic hunting and gathering people in the world. The Nyae Nyae Tape Archive (NNTA) is a unique record capturing the perceptions of the Ju/'hoan, a "click"-speaking people, in their own words. Recorded between 1970 – 2010 and now digitized, the NNTA is being transcribed and translated by the Ju/'hoan Transcription Group trained since 2002 in Tsumkwe, Namibia. It contains documentation of Ju/'hoan-language dialogue on land and leadership from 1988 to the present, a period when apartheid South West Africa became independent Namibia that will provide the baseline data with which new speech collected through this project will be compared. <br/><br/>Linguistic analysis of content, framing, intonation, and syntax will show how the Ju/'hoan through their people's organization, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, confront issues of the present, including environmental pressure from neighboring pastoralists and the ongoing challenges of minority representation in Namibia. The focus will be on how discourse about such topics has changed overtime. Importantly, the NNTA recordings allow identification of recent changes in the rhetorical and oratorical principles underlying Ju/'hoan politics. In the planned research, thus, the old and new recordings illuminate current Ju/'hoan history "from within". The Ju/'hoan now struggle to adapt to state imperatives during the current unavoidable transition from egalitarian to more hierarchical governance. These new realities are expressed in changing modes of discourse of intense interest to anthropologists. <br/><br/>Beyond scholarly impacts, the project's archives will also help Ju/'hoan people themselves better understand how their rhetoric has operated to effect change and provide a unique longitudinal record of discourse changes among a nomadic hunting and gathering population undergoing rapid and massive cultural transformation.

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