Perpetuating power through autoethnography: my research unawareness and memories of paternalism among the indigenous Hai//om in Namibia

Stasja Koot;*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this article, I reflect on my longitudinal relation with the indigenous Hai//om Bushmen of the resettlement farm Tsintsabis, in Namibia, exploring my position of power as a development fieldworker. I have been connected to the Hai//om since 1999, doing research and living and working with them while continuously moving between being an ‘outsider’ and an ‘insider’. As an MA student, a development worker/boss (baas) and a PhD researcher, my knowledge of these indigenous people changed over the years. My longest stay on the farm was not as a researcher/anthropologist but as a development fieldworker, engaging with the people in manifold relationships. I argue that there is much epistemological value in an ‘open retrospective analytic autoethnographic experience’. The article explores three under-analysed but crucial and related elements of autoethnography, namely unawareness, memory and power. Even when the awareness of ‘doing research’ is absent, knowledge is acquired. This can be used analytically at a later stage. However, this inevitably implies a major role for the researcher’s memories, thereby perpetuating his/her position of power in the representation and interpretation of events and experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)840-854
JournalCritical Arts
Volume30
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • autoethnography
  • Hai//om
  • memory
  • Namibia
  • power
  • unawareness

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