Street Khoisan: On Belonging, Recognition and Survival

Street Khoisan: On Belonging, Recognition and Survival
Street Khoisan: On Belonging, Recognition and Survival

Street Khoisan: On Belonging, Recognition and Survival

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.

Detailed Information

  • Title: Street Khoisan: On Belonging, Recognition and Survival
  • Author: Siv Øvernes
  • Publisher: UNISA Press
  • Country of Origin: South Africa
  • Publication Year: 2019
  • ISBN: 9781776150533
  • Bib. Info: Paperback; 255pp

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.

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

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