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Cultural Analysis: !Kung San

Politics
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Politics and the !Kung San

The !Kung San, as well as other groups of San in the Kalahari desert, exist in small, nomadic groups living distantly from other peoples. Within the groups there are hereditary leaders, sometimes considered chiefs, but they have limited authority. Traditionally, social order was enforced through ridicule, forced separation and sometimes even execution.11

Because of the disconnect between most of the nomadic groups, Bantu and European immigrant groups have been able to oppress and dispossess the !Kung. In fact, there are is some evidence that in the past San people have been hunted for sport. The !Kung exist outside of the political arena with a small voice in the national political process.11 Not being recognized as one of the tribal groups recognized in the constitution of Botswana, the !Kung and other San groups have been absorbed into the Griqua sub-group, which is an Afrikaans-speaking people of predominantly Khoisan stock.13

Having no social identity in the government, as well as populating a large amount of Southern Africa, the !Kung have been losing more and more rights over time being forced to settle into smaller and smaller amounts of land.


Functionalist Perspective

For the !Kung, a political system does not have any functional use. Having group consensus is much more important than focusing on any specific leader. With the way their society is set up, there is no one part of their group that is more important than any other part.

Conflict Perspective

Within the !Kung, conflicts over political pressures are minimal. There are no true leaders within the village, instead everything is handled through discussion and group consensus. When conflict does arise, it is dealt with swiftly by the entire community and the problem is either removed or resolved as needed.

External to the !Kung things are a different matter. The African government has gained increasing interest in the "unclaimed" land of the Kalahari desert. Due to the !Kung's unrecognized identity in the political arena, they have become more and more ignored by the government which has resulted in a loss of of their home lands as well as a loss in their own cultural identity.

Symbolic Perspective

The !Kung do not place much importance on the title of leader, focusing more on the group as a whole. They have no room in their society for a leadership hierarchy, instead placing more emphasis on the group as a whole.



This site was created for SOCIOLOGY 1 SEC DE1 (21594) FALL 2005.