The phenomenon of the Khoisan community’s revivalism in South Africa: Social and political aspects

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Senior Researcher, Centre for Sociological and Political Sciences Studies
Affiliation: Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameAsia and Africa Today
EditionIssue 7

The article analyses the phenomenon of the Khoisan community’s revivalism and its key socio-political aspects. Since the fall of the apartheid regime in 1994, the interest in ancestral heritage among South Africans has grown significantly. This process did not bypass the “Coloured” community of South Africa and many of them began to abandon the “colonial nickname”. They began to identify themselves as descendants of the aboriginal Khoikhoi and San. This phenomenon, which took the name as the Khoisan revivalism, had not only genealogical interest, but also a socio-political dimension.

Democratic South Africa has inherited the state racial classification from the apartheid era, according to which the Khoisan is continuing to be classified as “Coloured”. Activists of the Khoisan revivalism demand its revision and seek to be recognized as the “First Nation” of South Africa. This status would not only allow to raise the prestige of the Khoikhoi and San, but also to secure special rights for them. In particular, the right to restitution of land that has been taken away by any non-Khoisans. The South African leadership agrees to classify the Khoisans under their name, however, the leadership is not ready to recognize them as the “First Nation”. This could equate the expansion of Bantu-speaking Africans to Southern Africa and the European colonisation of the region. According to the government, it is incorrect to compare these two phenomena, and the required status will only cause a split within the South African society.

Materials for the research were obtained during my postdoctoral studies from 2018 to 2020in South Africa.

KeywordsSouth Africa, Khoisan revivalism, Khoikhoi, San, first nation, land reform
Publication date13.07.2022
Number of characters34862
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