Articulations of inferiority : From pre-colonial to post-colonial paternalism in tourism and development among the indigenous Bushmen of Southern Africa

Koot, Stasja


In southern Africa, the indigenous Bushmen (San) have for long been positioned as an inferior group. First, in pre-colonial paternalist relationships that included slavery and several types of serfdom. Next, they had an inferior position under colonial paternalism (‘baasskap’) originating at white settler farms and last, they experience inferiority again in relation to the contemporary, mostly black, elites, including state officials. This paper addresses this historical pattern: through ethnographic results and examples from the literature it relates this process to contemporary post-colonial paternalist relations of various groups of Bushmen, particularly in tourism and development programmes. I argue that, despite dominant discourses about bottom-up approaches by the tourism industry, NGOs and the state, tourism and development also provide for a continuation of paternalist relations, in which articulations of inferiority come from ‘above’ and ‘below’, thereby often perpetuating Bushmen’s inferiority. Moreover, I suggest that this perpetuation is not confined to tourism and development only; an important discourse that underscores inferiority to a degree is the hegemonic global articulation of ‘indigeneity’, which subtly emphasises indigenous peoples’ inferiority.