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Town-State Formations on the Edge of the Kalahari

Social-Cultura Dynamics of Centralization in Northern Tswana Kingdoms

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen

While the people of pre-colonial and colonial societies in Africa often lived in scattered, sparse settlements, the people of the Northern Tswana kingdoms (present-day Botswana) were found in large towns with thousands of residents. This is puzzling in view of their location on the edge of the Kalahari, where such concentrations would normally be least expected. Moreover, while pastoralism is generally considered antithetical to the formation of densely settled populations, cattle have featured centrally in these kingdoms' political economy. Breaking away from ecological determinism, the author argues that the role played by cattle in these societies was mediated through social and political processes that favor both state formation and large, compact settlements. The article is particularly concerned with the centripetal forces vested in the cultural and symbolic wealth of Tswana royal towns.

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The Discourse of 'Ritual Murder'

Popular Reaction to Political Leaders in Botswana

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen

In re-engaging the classic theme of sorcery and witchcraft in African anthropology, it is asserted that something new is happening in terms of the manifestation and magnitude of the phenomena that are commonly included in these notions.1 Geschiere, for one, claims that ‘nearly everywhere on the continent the state and politics seem to be true breeding grounds for modern transformations of witchcraft and sorcery’ (1999: 6). And Jean and John Comaroff (1999) speak of escalations of what they label ‘occult economies’ in postapartheid South Africa, escalations they also trace in other parts of the world, including the West and the post-communist East.

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Rohan Bastin, Marit Brendbekken, René Devisch, Allen Feldman, Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, Bruce Kapferer, Michael Lambek, Knut Rio and Kari G. Telle

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