Monday, May 3, 2010

Life at the LRC

I thought I would write a little about what I am doing day-to-day at the LRC. For the past two weeks I have been working with another intern to organize documentation and articles for the Khomani San case. Very briefly (very very briefly) the Khomani San are a community who was dispossessed of their land during the 60’s due to racially-discriminatory rule under apartheid. They made a claim for the restitution of their land, which covers a large area of the Kalahari in South Africa, in the mid 90’s and it was settled by 1999. The claim was extremely political – the Khomani San are considered to be ‘the first people on earth’, and are often characterized by their incredible, traditional hunting techniques and the unique clicking sounds in their language. After the claim settled they didn’t receive the institutional support that they needed to manage their land and resources, and as a result their social situation deteriorated quite badly. After over 10 years since the first settlement, the case is coming back to the courts to try to get more support from the government to manage the resources and assist these people who have suffered from severe discrimination and oppression throughout the past century. So my job right now is to collect and manage all the documentation/reports/emails that have to do with the Khomani San over the past decade. Most of the research has already been done, except everything is so disorganized no one knows how to find anything. Of course, they need a clear package to bring to the court.

I am enjoying my work, and working through the case is fascinating for me. There are so many issues and institutions involved – from the South African Human Rights Commission to Mail and Gardian - and the politics of identity and ‘indigeneity’ between the ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ Khomani San are at play. Its fascinating to see how all these issues are worked out and written into a single, cohesive court document. The case is also very sad, of course.

I take the train everyday to work – I leave here at 8, travel four stops to Cape Town, walk down a few streets and watch the vendors get their sales items together and set up shop for the day. I often buy a coffee on the way and am at work by 8:30. My day is intellectually stimulating (okay, my task of organizing and renaming flies and files of documents is actually very mundane and boring, but it’s interesting material). I meet up with Holly in the evening, sometimes we go browse book stores, take a shared taxi to the coast, or buy a drink downtown. We then come home, make dinner together, hangout in our sweet room, and go to sleep to start it all over again. It’s a good deal all around.

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