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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 TwoNationalism and its Moments 39


Chapter Two Nationalism and its Moments Despite the many injunctions within African historiography not only to go beyond nationalist history but also to abandon nationalism as a topic, it makes no sense to do this in Zimbabwe … sequence of nation- alist thought and organisation from the Bantu Congress of the 1940s and early 1950s through the revived mass nationalist parties of the late 1950s and early 1960s and into guerrilla war are crucial for contem- porary debate about democracy in Zimbabwe. Understanding rural nationalism is crucial for understanding Zimbabwe’s rural areas. The range of political options in Zimbabwe seems confined to emancipat- ing pluralist nationalism on the one hand and collective, majoritarian nationalism on the other. Terence Ranger1 Nationalism was exclusively about fighting men and land, about British perfidy and national sovereignty – it was not about democracy or rights, concerns that were recast as part of an alien and imperial agenda. Jocelyn Alexander2 National history, in the conception of nationalist historiography, becomes a sort of ‘political charter’ linking history with the nation, the nation with nationalism. We cannot forget that the ‘nationalist historians’ were themselves the creation of nationalist movements. Toyin Falola3 1 T. O. Ranger, ‘Leaving Africa: Making and Writing History in Zimbabwe’ (Harare, Zimbabwe: Valedictory Lecture, Momonotapa Crown Plaza, 19 June 1997). 2 J. Alexander, The Unsettled Land: State-Making and the Politics of Land in Zimbabwe, 1893–2003 (Oxford: James Currey, 2006), p. 185. 3 T. Falola, ‘Writing and Teaching National History in Africa in an Era of...

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