Before Farming

Digital documentation of Ju/'hoan narratives

significance for hunter-gatherer studies, language archives and education

Before Farming (2007), 2007, (2), 1–14.

Abstract

Studying the phonetically complex language of the Ju/'hoan San (previously called the !Kung) of Botswana and Namibia greatly increases our understanding of their hunting and gathering tradition and how it is changing. This paper reports on a long term project to transform an extensive ‘legacy collection’ of audio textual material in Ju/'hoan into authoritative digital texts and sound files, enabling the responsible posting of the material to intercollaborating internet archives. The texts, gathered between 1970 and the present, range from folklore, dreams, and narratives of trance healing to political meetings and oral history. Recent interviews and conversations about the Nyae Nyae Conservancy, the Namibian Ju/'hoan people's organisation, were recorded as well, and these focus on the environment, land rights and new issues in governance and representation. Transcribed and translated with precision by a collaborative team containing computer-literate native speakers, these texts are valuable research tools for anthropologists, archaeologists and linguists. Destined too for the archives of the Ju/'hoan people themselves, they contribute to a movement now developing among indigenous people in many parts of the world, to document and develop their own culture and language for educational, political, and economic goals.

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Author details

Biesele, Megan