Unisa Press

Street Khoisan

On belonging, recognition and survival

Author: Siv Øvernes
Published: December 19, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-77615-053-3
Number of pages: 255
This book is not available in electronic format

About the book

It was a rainy day back in the 1990s, when Priscilla said it. 'I am Khoe'. Her words surprised Siv Øvernes. Caught in her ignorance, Siv wondered: 'but the Khoisan are no longer around, are they?' From that moment, Siv developed a keen interest in embarking on this ethnography on street life and Khoisan belonging.

From a marginal part of a wider Khoisan world, Siv Øvernes learnt from street people in Cape Town about the meaning of Khoisan belonging. 'Being strong' and 'being survivors' but also the predicaments of having 'lost all' and 'being down on luck,' was linked to a Khoisan past and present. Albeit whispered about rather than shouted out in the open, Khoisan belonging was meaningful on the streets and taken to heart by many street people. This book searches for answers why.

Currently, it is no longer a surprise that the Khoisan are part of the South African nation. They are 'everywhere', and not only on the streets.

Colonisation, assimilation and acculturation did not make the Khoisan disappear. Self-naming have carried resilience here, as in other places where indigenous identities have been muted and esoteric. While focusing on the Khoisan, this book includes a juxtaposition between Khoisan experiences with glimpses of the indigenous Coastal Sami's history from the author's home ground in Norway. As they have for centuries, indigenous people continue to survive.

Siv Øvernes, PhD is a social anthropologist at the Department of Child Welfare and Social Work at the Arctic University of Norway.

Testimonial from Yvette Abrahams: 'Siv Øvernes is real, one of the people. She came to live with us as one of us, sharing our joys and our sorrows. Refusing to stand on the outside looking in, she built bridges and continues to build them. Read her work, share her understanding, and make peace with your troubled past.'

Testimonial from William Ellis: 'The text provides unique insights into a range of context that have not ever been previously drawn together in a single text. In this regard, Øvernes' book is a first to bring together for the reader an interplay of homelessness, Khoisan studies and the revival of indigenous identities from different global contexts. It is indeed a gripping read that portrays the intersection of life on the streets with identity politics and the intellectual debates about this identity in South Africa. Lastly, the book makes a novel contribution to the discussion about indigenous research and the orthographies of the less powerful.'

Table of content




Abbreviations and acronyms                                                  

CHAPTER 1       Introduction: The initial question                                         

CHAPTER 2       Doing ethnography: Method and theories                         

CHAPTER 3       Hitting the pavements and finding the Khoisan                

CHAPTER 4       History and race, ethnicity and indigenous status             

CHAPTER 5       Entering street life                                                           

CHAPTER 6      Moulding a community: From trouble to !nau               

CHAPTER 7       Entering history and representations                               

CHAPTER 8       Awakening and counter-strike                                        

CHAPTER 9       Communicating difference