Identity engraved: artistic endeavour and ethnic entities in Central South Africa

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dc.contributor.author Rifkin, Riaan F
dc.date.accessioned 2009-02-12T10:32:12Z
dc.date.available 2009-02-12T10:32:12Z
dc.date.issued 2009-02-12T10:32:12Z
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10539/6090
dc.description.abstract ABSTRACT Ethnicity has been a focus of socio-scientific research for at least three decades, but for the greater part of that period it has been virtually ignored by archaeologists. As a result, many researchers remain committed to an essentialist approach to ethnicity. The reluctance to respond to such views by taking up more explicitly the dynamic and situational approaches to identity, as is currently underway in anthropology and sociology, arise from several sources, which undeniably also include the political. Ultimately, though, the essential reason is practical. The literature demonstrates that ethnicity and ethnic identity are slippery concerns in contemporary societies, let alone in pre-historic social contexts. Rock art presents an opportunity for assessing assumptions about identityconsciousness. It provides a category of material culture for the establishment of historical and chronological records of multi-cultural interaction and ensuing episodes of adaptation and change. Engraved art is a source of information on past societies, subsistence strategies and, most importantly, on the development of cohesive social systems and social consciousness. Artwork is the most obvious example of symbolic storage outside the human mind, yet it is not universally practised by huntergatherers and it cannot therefore be used as the sole criterion for recognising modern symbolism, modern behaviour, and ethnicity. Given this ambiguity with regards the function of rock art in the demarcation of territorial boundaries and in the construction of social and ethnic identities, an exploration of additional spheres of ethnic conception and assertion may illuminate the question of how San huntergatherers conceived and conveyed their respective identities. This investigation into the association between art and ethnicity is founded upon the conviction that the complexity of social identity must be explored on a dynamic continuum that allows for interface between varied social factors. Notions concerning the ethnic orientation of social groups are represented, either unconsciously or purposefully, in socio-cultural spheres as diverse as territoriality, subsistence economy, language, religion, and also aesthetic and artistic cultural patterns. This study of the relationship between conceptions of identity and engraved art aspires to augment the existing understanding of the origins of processes of identity-formation, how such processes operate, and how they may be manifest in material cultural contexts. en
dc.language.iso en en
dc.subject identity en
dc.subject art en
dc.subject ethnicity en
dc.subject South Africa en
dc.title Identity engraved: artistic endeavour and ethnic entities in Central South Africa en
dc.type Thesis en


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    Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of the Witwatersrand, 1972.

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