Accepted paper:

'Being Enlightened' Ncõakwe in Botswana


Jenny Lawy (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

The term 'being enlightened' is used by educated Ncõakwe. It reveals how young people conceptualise their contemporary position as marginal to the dominant Tswana language and culture yet they are highly successful within education.

Paper long abstract:

In the last decade more Ncõakwe (indigenous San) have been successful within the mainstream education system in Botswana, and abroad, and are enrolled in or have completed higher education. This paper examines the boundaries of the dominant rhetoric used by educated Ncõakwe that; (this) education helps 'us' to be Ncõakwe. A process of education that is culturally and socially 'other' to Ncõakwe home life and community opens possibilities of knowing that are from outside the local world and at the same time position traditions as 'dark' and by insinuation, 'ugly'. 'Being enlightened ' as used by educated Ncõakwe offers a paradox of experience between being socially and politically marginalised yet highly educated and mobile.

This paper draws on the history of colonial and postcolonial education in Botswana, anthropological literature on social change surrounding Ncõakwe, debates about enlightenment education, and my own ethnographic fieldwork to ask what it means to be an educated/enlightened Ncõakwe. Moreover, how does education fit in with the overall collective project for Ncõakwein Botswana?

panel P31
"Indigenous" space and local politics