I’m in the last phases of my thesis, working on finishing my final draft, and I realize I haven’t really talked about it that much here on the blog! 

My Master’s thesis is the capstone component of my studies here with the Erasmus Mundus Global Studies program, and I’ve been working on narrowing in it’s focus. Over the last year and a half I’ve looked at different studies, from environmental concerns, including access to water for indigenous peoples to discussion of transitional justice and civil society. I’ve finally ended up writing and researching a combination of these topics, in my thesis, “An Indigenous People, the State, and International Interventions: A Study of Dilemmas Facing the Basarwa of Botswana.”

I’m still uncomfortable with the use of the word Basarwa which is not only diminutive but also offensive, and I’m also concerned about researching and writing about an indigenous struggle from the positionality and privledges of my life. I’ve tried to address this in my thesis, and to justify the use of my terms and position. Nevertheless, it’s a difficult space to write in. I can only emphasize that I am aware of these, and am doing my best to present the research in an empathetic, open and unbiased manner.

What initially attracted me to the case was the confluence of water and land rights, indigenous identity, conservation ideology and the use of development in a synonymous relationship to assimilation. What’s become even more interesting and exciting is the role of international advocacy organizations, especially those which focus on indigenous rights, and their role and effect in the dialogue between indigenous groups and state entities.

That has led me to decide on my current working abstract and guiding paper focus which is to examine and determine:

The effect of the involvement of local non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations, development agents, and the government of Botswana in the governance, integration, and protection of the Basarwa (San) indigenous peoples in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

I want to convey and express what I’ve found regarding the retreat from international sources of aid and support by this indigenous group during their pursuit of recognition, provision and enforcement of rights, and dialogue with the state regarding their access to development. 

It is thoroughly fascinating, and often disturbing the different tactics that have been implemented by the Government of Botswana, international advocacy and aid organizations. More, the characterizations of indigeniety, modernity, and development within the global geopolitical context is varied, complex, and intriguing. The GOB’s characterizations in media and news of international actors as subversive foreign agents for example lend some credible structure to understanding and interpreting the actions of leaders and spokespersons for the Basarwa in their relationships with INGOs, Advocacy organizations and the government.

I am of course nervous, and excited about the prospect of continuing and completing this exploratory research, and hope to share more with you in the future, but for now, back to writing!