Roie Thomas

Date of Submission



This study draws on postcolonial and post-tourism theories to explore tourism representations of the San (commonly known outside Africa as Bushmen); predominantly those who traditionally occupied the Central Kalahari region of Botswana. This thesis deploys images, articles and captions from tourist publications, tourist ’blogs, an academic documentary, the film The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), literary texts such as selected works of Laurens van der Post, and Alexander McCall Smith’s (1998 –) No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series as well as a series of artistic self-representations. These texts demonstrate tangible evidence of the role of representation in disenfranchisement and an increasing autonomy in the case of the San. Obviously a direct causal link between representation and disempowerment, and its opposite dynamic: self-representation and empowerment, cannot be proven (that is, measured) substantively but the two correlations are, I assert, sufficiently axiomatic. The data qualitatively analysed in Chapters Three and Four are tourism texts comprising representations of the San, created without their authorisation. Data are accessed interpretively through public-domain representations that show the capacity of tourist texts to perpetuate or challenge the position of the Indigenous people in this context. The texts deconstructed in this thesis depict the San of the Central Kalahari region of Botswana in a variety of ways, designed either for tourist consumption specifically, with the imagery and rhetoric directly addressing them, or for commercial distribution, where tourists have been enticed to Botswana via incidental representations within such texts. Incorporated within the analysis of some texts are comments from recently posted tourist ’blogs, substantiating the fact that the rhetoric and imagery of the representations have, generally, precisely the effect upon tourists they were designed to have. Following the analysis of non San-authorised representations, San self-representations for tourist consumption are shown (Chapter Five) as relatively recent exemplars of a burgeoning self-determination and, in fact, resistance to the Tswana hegemony operating in Botswana. Postcolonial theory is the framework underpinning the analysis of representations of the Botswana San produced for tourist consumption. Postcolonial analysis will be informed and supported by a post-tourism paradigm, that is, a critique of cultural tourism’s traditionally exploitative and paternalistic assumptions and practices as well as the awareness of the ‘blurring between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy, education and entertainment’ that characterises the tourism domain (Sherlock, 2001: 282). This thesis analyses tourism industry representations of the San people of Botswana predominantly using David Spurr’s categories of colonial (and neo-colonial) thought and practice identified in The Rhetoric of Empire (1993).


School of Arts

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


372 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts


Research Location