Indigenous peoples and place: reclaiming landscape through stories and myths

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The translation of local life and daily practices into formal western legal categories has led to policies that dichotomise, simplify and homogenise the complexities of social life as lived by indigenous peoples. A sui generis approach to protecting indigenous peoples' land rights must focus on discovering the localised practices of law that are, so far, barely explored in formal western legal rules. In this paper, it is argued that by treating law as a narrative means, in practice, looking at memory rather than rules. The central inquiry of this paper is to show how the anthropological story of landscape can intersect with the anthropological story of law. One way of achieving this is through examining the stories, ceremonies and traditions of indigenous peoples through which they express their daily legal practices. By examining some of the stories that are told by the San in Southern Africa, we will be discovering how the San reflect upon landscape, place and memory. Through the San's narratives we can discover how the San have created their own space in a changing landscape that gives them freedom to invent or suspend social practice which gives them the means to contest the politicised landscape of the Kalahari. The practice of storytelling provides for the San an alternative paradigm through which they can continue to express their social universe than not only contest competing claims of landscape, memory and place but also competing claims of lawmaking.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventAnnual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers - Washington DC, United States
Duration: 14 Apr 201018 Apr 2010


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington DC


  • indigenous peoples
  • land rights
  • landscape
  • memory
  • stories

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