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Bushmen, Boers and Baasskap: Patriarchy and Paternalism on Afrikaner Farms in the Omaheke Region, Namibia

Renee Sylvain
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 717-737
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/823410
Page Count: 21
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Bushmen, Boers and Baasskap: Patriarchy and Paternalism on Afrikaner Farms in the Omaheke Region, Namibia
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Abstract

In this article I examine the paternalistic and patriarchal components inherent in the institution of 'baasskap' on Afrikaner farms in the Omaheke Region of Namibia, where farm labourers and domestic servants are largely Ju/'hoansi. First, I examine the development of baasskap from the top down, focusing on macro-level political economic trends, and the farmers' reactions to those trends that helped to create an ambiguous class status for the Ju/'hoansi. I then examine the dialectics of coercion, collusion and consent between farmers and the Ju/'hoansi in the maintenance of baasskap by outlining two important features of Afrikaner-Ju/'hoan interactions: first, the pseudo-familial relations between farmers and farm workers, as those are perceived by the farmers; and second, the contrast between 'helping' (hui) others and 'working' (//xnòà) for others, as that is perceived by the Ju/'hoansi. I argue that the conflation of the farmers' role as 'baas' and 'father figure' establishes the patriarchal family as the model for race and class relations on the farms. While the paternalistic attitudes of the farmer are openly expressed, and therefore easily challenged and manipulated by the Ju/'hoansi, the principles of gender subordination inherent in the patriarchal model of farm and family government go unnoticed and unchallenged. This makes patriarchy the most deeply hegemonic principle of inequality that gives race and class relationships their distinctive form under baasskap.

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