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Fixity and fluidity: chiefly authority and settlement movement in colonial Botswana

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This article proposes that anthropologists and historians of colonialism, landscape and the colonial construction of chieftaincy in Africa should examine particular case studies in more detail to elicit the complex social and material processes implicit in such notions. In particular it focuses upon the colonial conflation of the notions of settlement nucleation and sedentism in the period of the Bechuanaland Protectorate in Botswana (1885-1966), processes of material change, and the position of Tswana chiefs with regard to settlement and authority. The perceived "failure" of the Tawana chiefs in Ngamiland District to exert settlement control over the dispersed population is analyzed through detailed colonial records of conflict to argue that what failed was the colonial construction of chieftaincy itself, as well as the colonial imagination of landscape in Africa. The article's emphasis upon the materiality of dwelling in the landscape also seeks to convince historians and anthropologists alike of the vast research potential of material culture in the analysis of colonial histories, social and cultural change, and indigenous notions of modernity.
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Keywords: Botswana (Bechuanaland Protectorate); Colonialism; Landscape; Power; Settlement

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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