Khoe-San ethnography, ‘new animism’ and the interpretation of Southern African rock art

Low, C (2014) 'Khoe-San ethnography, ‘new animism’ and the interpretation of Southern African rock art.' South African Archaeological Bulletin, 69 (200). pp. 164-172. ISSN 0038-1969

Official URL: https://www.archaeologysa.co.za/publications/saab/...

Abstract

In 2007 Thomas Dowson argued that interpretation of southern African rock art was hamstrung by discussion of the significance and role of the shaman. Dowson offered an alternative approach in which he sought to resituate the shaman in an animic hunter-gatherer ontology. At the core of his argument, Dowson proposed that the control of supernatural potency was not the exclusive preserve of the shaman, and all humans and non-human animals circulated potency in activities that constituted their identities. Here I support Dowson's turn to anthropology and performativity, but question the mismatch between the broad-brush theory of animism Dowson applies and the actual details of Bushman ontology, their ideas of identity, their relationships with knowledge and the pragmatism and practicality that underpins their lives. I seek to re-orientate Dowson's interpretation towards a more characteristic representation of Bushmen than that inherent in unfamiliar ideas of circulating potency. Drawing on detailed ethnography and extensive fieldwork, I explore Dowson's proposal in terms of Bushman hunting, relationships with animals and god and the role and meaning of potency in their life. In a final section I assess the implications of these findings to the interpretation of southern African roc

Item Type: Article
Keywords: hunter gatherers, humans, animism, ethnography, meats, elephant hunting, shamans, elephants
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2018 17:57
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2018 17:58
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