Before Farming

In small things consumed

entomophagy in the Bleek-Lloyd narratives

Before Farming (2012), 2012, (4), 1–16.

Abstract

Colonial representations of |Xam hunter-gatherers in South Africa emphasise their consumption of insects as emblematic of their ‘Bushman’ status; bestial, improvident, slothful, and degraded. More recent ethnographic work confirms the widespread nutritional significance of arthropod resources for hunter-gatherer (and other) populations: this article examines the extent to which the narratives of the Bleek-Lloyd archive can be used to construct an alternative view of |Xam entomophagy to that presented in other forms of colonial literature. The article discusses some of the ways in which the Bleek-Lloyd informants divided up the insect world, and how their interactions with these species were integrated into their wider subsistence practices. The limitations of the Bleek-Lloyd material for reconstructing these practices in detail, and for recovering |Xam representations, are outlined, along with the wider significance of the archive for presenting alternative perspectives on colonial narratives.

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McGranaghan, Mark