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date: 13 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Research carried out on southern African hunter-gatherer populations over the past century and a half is reviewed. Emphasis is placed on (1) the diversity among hunter-gatherer populations, (2) the variation in interactions with other groups, (3) changes that occurred over time, (4) oscillations in adaptations among San and Khoekhoe peoples, and (5) the Kalahari debate. Several research traditions are reviewed: (1) South African, (2) American (Marshall family, Harvard Kalahari Research Group), (3) other research traditions, including Japanese and development-oriented work. The kinds of approaches to research, ranging from archival work to field-based ethnographic investigation, are discussed, as are theoretical approaches (ecological, political-economic, revisionist). The article concludes with a discussion of the relevance of anthropological and development-oriented work to contemporary struggles of indigenous peoples, including ones aimed at ensuring a return to traditional lands and facilitating their rights to continue to hunt and gather if they so choose.

Keywords: San, hunting-gathering, foragers, mobility, land use, Kalahari debate, exchange, egalitarianism, affluence, settlement

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