Biases and Incomplete Information. The Case of the Khoesan and the Enslaved

Calumet Links, Stellenbosch University

The nineteenth century was a time of great change for the Khoesan people of southern Africa, as they faced significant political, economic, and social upheaval in the wake of European colonisation. However, due to biases in the historical record, our understanding of this period is often incomplete and distorted, leading to a range of misconceptions and stereotypes about the Khoe people and their experiences. A key biase that incomplete information on the nineteenth Khoe has created is a tendency to view them as a homogenous group, rather than a diverse and dynamic set of cultures and communities. This has led to oversimplified and inaccurate representations of Khoesan society, overlooking the many ways in which these people adapted to changing circumstances and engaged in complex social and political relationships with European colonisers and other groups of kin. Moreover, incomplete information on the nineteenth Khoe has led to them being portayed as passive victims of colonialism, rather than active agents who were able to resist or negotiate with Europeans in various ways. This has led to a distorted view of Khoe agency and resilience, ignoring acts of resistance, accommodation, and adaptation in response to European colonialism. Finally, incomplete information on the nineteenth Khoesan has led to a bias towards Western perspectives and interpretations, marginalising indigenous voices and perspectives. The biases that incomplete information on the nineteenth Khoe creates has significant consequences for our understanding of Khoe culture and history, as well as our ability to appreciate the diversity and complexity of their experiences. By striving to overcome these biases and engage with a more complete and nuanced historical records, we can gain a richer and more accurate understanding of the Khoe people and their place in world history.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 120. Round table: Big data and writing the history of the global south: The Case of the Cape of Good Hope Panel