Representing Bushmen

Representing Bushmen

South Africa and the Origin of Language

Shane Moran


University of Rochester Press



A detailed and compelling volume that contributes significantly to current trends in post-apartheid scholarship.
Representing Bushmen draws on the work of Jacques Derrida, Edward Said, and Martin Bernal to show how the study of language was integral to the formation of racial discrimination in South Africa. Author Shane Moran demonstrates the central role of literary history to the cultural racism and ideology that fed into apartheid by tracing the ethno-aesthetic figuration of the Bushmen in W. H. I. Bleek's theory of the origin of language. Moran examines the gestation of colonial ideology, and provocatively traces aspects of the post-apartheid rhetoric of commemoration and national unity to their colonialist roots.
This detailed and compelling volume contributes significantly to current trends in post-apartheid scholarship. Moran emphasizes the need for a cautious interrogation of the colonial archive and scrutiny of critical discourses used by the would-be postcolonial intellectual, and poses a timely challenge to those committed to exorcising that legacy.

Shane Moran teaches at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.


February 2009
4 black and white illustrations
222 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora
ISBN: 9781580462945
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Unity in Diversity
Colonial Intellectual
On the Origin
Writing Bushmen
Language and Blood
Colonial Family Crypt
Bushman Literature
Conclusion: Presentiment


Shows how the fine-grained study of a colonial archive can generate an expansive examination of "the after-image of the colonial subject," as well as a powerful critique of postcolonial neoliberalism. From the work of nineteenth-century philologist W. H. I. Bleek, Shane Moran culls a tradition-stretching from the early colonization of southern Africa to post-apartheid South Africa and running through philology, ethnography, political economy, philosophy, and history-of representing the Bushmen as exemplary indigenes. Along the way, Moran examines the entanglement of cultural essentialism and linguistic theory; the articulation of racism and capitalism; the productive encounters between deconstruction and historicism; the tensions between reconciliation and social, political, and economic restructuring; the role of the colonial and post-colonial intellectual; and the ongoing life of that which we think we have mourned to death. --David Kazanjian, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Pennsylvania

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