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Do ‘Zimbabweans’ Exist?

Trajectories of Nationalism, National Identity Formation and Crisis in a Postcolonial State


Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni

This book examines the triumphs and tribulations of the Zimbabwean national project, providing a radical and critical analysis of the fossilisation of Zimbabwean nationalism against the wider context of African nationalism in general. The book departs radically from the common ‘praise-texts’ in seriously engaging with the darker aspects of nationalism, including its failure to create the nation-as-people, and to install democracy and a culture of human rights. The author examines how the various people inhabiting the lands between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers entered history and how violence became a central aspect of the national project of organising Zimbabweans into a collectivity in pursuit of a political end.


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Chapter OneIntroduction: Deconstructing the National Project 1


Chapter One Introduction: Deconstructing the National Project The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionising themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle-cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language. Karl Marx1 Every nation has its own imagery, its gods, angels, devils or saints who live in the nation’s traditions, whose stories and deeds the nurse tells hers to her charges and so wins them over by impressing their imagi- nation … In addition to these creatures of the imagination there also lives in the memory of most nations, especially free nations, the ancient heroes of their countries’ history … Those heroes do not live solely in their nations’ imagination; their history, the recollection of their deeds is linked with public festivals, national games, with many of the state’s domestic institutions or foreign affairs, with well-known houses and districts with public memorials and temples. G. W. F. Hegel2 The new Government of National Unity (GNU) in Zimbabwe, made up of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) political formations and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), 1 K. Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983), p. 12. 2 G. W....

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