"Offered to the World": An Intellectual Biography of the Life and Scholoarship of Dorothea Bleek


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Rock Art Research Institute


This biography examines the life and work of Dorothea Bleek and probes the silence around her lifetime of research. In critically assessing the breadth and range of her scholarship, the study examines Bleek's fieldwork and rock art research and situates these within trajectories of knowledge production in the emerging academic and institutional landscapes of southern Africa in the opening decades of the twentieth century. It discusses the impact of her work in terms of structuring and formalising the "field" and “fieldwork” as method and practice in the human sciences and archaeology, and also in terms of its contribution to the concept "bushman" that remains persistent into the present. It furthermore considers ways in which Bleek’s life and scholarship may disrupt gendered lineages of biographic and intellectual histories through which South Africa’s past has been narrated.