Marksmen and the bush: The affective micro-politics of landscape, sex and technology in precolonial South-Central Africa
This essay explores what we can know about the micro-politics of knowledge production using the history of bushcraft as a case study. In many societies in central, eastern and southern Africa, practitioners of technologies undertaken away from the village, in the bush, enjoy a special status. Among the Botatwe-speaking societies of south-central Africa, the status accorded hunters, smelters and other technicians of the bush was crafted in the centuries around the turn of the first millennium by
... combining old ideas about the blustery character of fame and spirits, and the talk that engendered both with the observation that technicians working in the bush shared a kinesthetic experience of piercing, poking and prodding into action during the generative activities of working smelts and taking down game. Yet the micro-politics of bushcraft knowledge also involved the bodies and feelings of spearmen and metallurgists' wives, lovers, mothers, sisters, and sometimes those of the entire neighbourhood. The invention of a new landscape category, isokwe, and the novel status of these seasonal technicians marks the development of a new kind of virile masculinity available to some men; it was a status with deeply sensuous, material and social meanings for women as well.