The trickster has held a prominent place in the study of folklore,
as much as it has been central to anthropological understandings of egalitarianism.
In both, the trickster embodies an insoluble tension between
the repressed, amoral desires of the individual and the moral demands
of social life. This tension, so it goes, is visible in the ambiguity of the
figure—a protean indeterminate being, neither good nor bad. Among
the Jú|’hoànsi of northeastern Namibia, the trickster is similarly ambiguous.
The figure conveys not a clash of values, but rather the doubt and
uncertainty people feel toward those with whom they share resources, or
about different ways of sharing and how they might relate to one another.
This article approaches such uncertainty through a focus on the mocking
phrase “you’re a trickster” and the moral discourses that accompany it.