Transgressing the Borderlands of Tradition and Modernity: Identity, Cultural Hybridity and Land Struggles in Namaqualand (1980-1994)

During the late 1980s, farmers in the ‘coloured reserves’ of Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Province in South Africa challenged attempts by the government and rural elites to replace communal tenure with individually owned ‘economic units’. Notably in Leliefontein Reserve, an area exposed to Methodist missionization since 1816, the modernizing agenda of local elites and the State in the 1980s was challenged by livestock farmers who insisted that communal tenure be retained on the grounds that it was an expression of authentic Nama tradition. By drawing on Nama identity, these Afrikaans-speaking, Christian coloureds were not calling for a return to some pristine and primordial Nama past. Their resistance to individual tenure emerged out of land struggles that drew on both modern discourses on legality and democracy, as well as cultural resources and subaltern histories and identities that had been silenced through colonial domination and apartheid. Furthermore, the hybrid tactics that were evident in local responses during the land struggles, are indicative of the more generalized cultural hybridity, contingency and instability of coloured identity in South Africa. Bibliogr., notes.

Title: Transgressing the Borderlands of Tradition and Modernity: Identity, Cultural Hybridity and Land Struggles in Namaqualand (1980-1994)
Author: Robins, Steven
Year: 1997
Periodical: Journal of Contemporary African Studies
Volume: 15
Issue: 1
Period: January
Pages: 23-43
Language: English
Geographic term: South Africa
External links: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/02589009708729601
http://ejournals.ebsco.com/direct.asp?ArticleID=4670B76190193C1C3597
Abstract: During the late 1980s, farmers in the ‘coloured reserves’ of Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Province in South Africa challenged attempts by the government and rural elites to replace communal tenure with individually owned ‘economic units’. Notably in Leliefontein Reserve, an area exposed to Methodist missionization since 1816, the modernizing agenda of local elites and the State in the 1980s was challenged by livestock farmers who insisted that communal tenure be retained on the grounds that it was an expression of authentic Nama tradition. By drawing on Nama identity, these Afrikaans-speaking, Christian coloureds were not calling for a return to some pristine and primordial Nama past. Their resistance to individual tenure emerged out of land struggles that drew on both modern discourses on legality and democracy, as well as cultural resources and subaltern histories and identities that had been silenced through colonial domination and apartheid. Furthermore, the hybrid tactics that were evident in local responses during the land struggles, are indicative of the more generalized cultural hybridity, contingency and instability of coloured identity in South Africa. Bibliogr., notes.