Dr. Megan Biesele will undertake research on changes in political language among the Ju/'hoan San of Namibia and Botswana who are the most extensively studied nomadic hunting and gathering people in the world. The Nyae Nyae Tape Archive (NNTA) is a unique record capturing the perceptions of the Ju/'hoan, a "click"-speaking people, in their own words. Recorded between 1970 - 2010 and now digitized, the NNTA is being transcribed and translated by the Ju/'hoan Transcription Group trained since 2002 in Tsumkwe, Namibia. It contains documentation of Ju/'hoan-language dialogue on land and leadership from 1988 to the present, a period when apartheid South West Africa became independent Namibia that will provide the baseline data with which new speech collected through this project will be compared.
Linguistic analysis of content, framing, intonation, and syntax will show how the Ju/'hoan through their people's organization, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, confront issues of the present, including environmental pressure from neighboring pastoralists and the ongoing challenges of minority representation in Namibia. The focus will be on how discourse about such topics has changed overtime. Importantly, the NNTA recordings allow identification of recent changes in the rhetorical and oratorical principles underlying Ju/'hoan politics. In the planned research, thus, the old and new recordings illuminate current Ju/'hoan history "from within". The Ju/'hoan now struggle to adapt to state imperatives during the current unavoidable transition from egalitarian to more hierarchical governance. These new realities are expressed in changing modes of discourse of intense interest to anthropologists.
Beyond scholarly impacts, the project's archives will also help Ju/'hoan people themselves better understand how their rhetoric has operated to effect change and provide a unique longitudinal record of discourse changes among a nomadic hunting and gathering population undergoing rapid and massive cultural transformation.
Analysis of Recorded Ju|'hoan San Language Events as Political Action, 1990 - Present This project has focused on recent developments in Ju|'hoan San political rhetoric from a sociolinguistic perspective called "language as political action." In this focus it has used . The Nyae Nyae Tape Archive (NNTA) collected by the P.I. since 1970.The NNTA is a unique record capturing the perceptions of the Ju|â€™hoan, a "click"-speaking people, in their own words. Now digitized, the NNTA is being transcribed and translated by the Ju/|hoan Transcription Group trained since 2002 in Tsumkwe, Namibia. A large number of NNTA soundfiles were processed during the years of BCS 1122932 (2011 - 2013). Because these files contain documentation of Ju|â€™hoan-language dialogue on land and leadership from 1988 to the present, a period when apartheid South West Africa became independent Namibia, they provide a rare view of an African independence process as seen by a recently hunting-gathering, indigenous people now undergoing great change. PI Megan Biesele and project consultant Robert Hitchcock have prepared to publish four update articles on Ju|â€™hoan political history since 2010, based on NNTA data as well as on their recently published book The Ju|â€™hoan San of Nyae Nyae and Namibian Independence: Development, Democracy, and Indigenous Voices in Southern Africa. They have also digitally recorded contemporary interviews and meetings, from which they have selected examples of Ju|â€™hoan language as political action. These show how the Ju|â€™hoan and their peopleâ€™s organization, the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, confront issues of the present, including environmental pressure from neighboring pastoralists and the ongoing challenges of minority representation in Namibia. Importantly, the NNTA recordings allow identification of recent changes in the rhetorical and oratorical principles underlying Ju|â€™hoan politics. Thus the old and new recordings illuminate current Ju|â€™hoan history "from within". The Ju|â€™hoan now struggle to adapt to state imperatives during the current necessary transition from egalitarian to more hierarchical governance. These new realities are expressed in changing modes of discourse. Beyond scholarly impacts, the projectâ€™s archives will help Ju|â€™hoan people themselves better understand how their rhetoric can effect change. The NNTA recordings provide a comprehensive record of more than a generation in the history of the Ju|â€™hoan San, said to be the best studied people in all of anthropological literature. The published texts and articles resulting from the project will provide insights available in no other way into the political use of the Ju|â€™hoan language during a critical period of their history. The theoretical approach to the texts stemmed from three anthropological sources: the "ethnography of speaking" of the 1970s, "speech act theory" in the 1980s and 1990s on how language works politically in different societies, and writings on socioeconomic challenges posed to endangered languages, most of which appeared in the new millennium. This project has important broader impacts: in the long run the survival of the endangered Ju|â€™hoan language itself will depend on how effectively it can incorporate the means for establishing and reproducing the mechanisms of power in todayâ€™s challenging multicultural context. The project 's publications also make significant contributions to topical issues in cultural anthropology such as consensus, negotiation and peacekeeping among hunter-gatherers; issues regarding relations with pastoralist neighbors; and gender, age, and the nature of decision-making in a transforming egalitarian society. Also, as this project now has highly productive Ju|â€™hoan assistants trained in digital transcription and translation, and they have a backlog of processed verbal material already produced, it was time to make their authoritative records available to other researchers. Thus an outlet has been provided for the contemporary voices of an indigenous people who have for too long remained "voiceless" in scholarly discussions of their own society. The four publications to be produced include: 1. Update on illegal settlement in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy: changes in Ju|'hoan political oratory between 1991 and the present 2. Update on Traditional Authority and Conservancy leadership 3. Ju|'hoan people in the national and international contexts: comparison with other Namibian San communities such as N=a Jaqna and Etosha, and with Botswana San communities; presence at the United Nations. 4. Assessment of dangers to Ju/'hoan and other San communities from mining, tourism, big agriculture, and other multi-national forces. These publications, to appear in outlets like Development & Change, World Development, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Africa, Journal of Southern African Studies, and elsewhere, will expand the already large number of joint publications on related topics by Biesele and Hitchcock, which now number 64. As such, they represent a substantial contribution to the growing literature on peace-keeping and governance in small-scale societies, particularly as they confront contemporary changes and challenges.