Marksmen and the bush: The affective micro-politics of landscape, sex and technology in precolonial South-Central Africa

Kathryn M. de Luna
Kronos  
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
more » ... 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.
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