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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 EightConclusion 345


Chapter Eight Conclusion At its beginning African states were indicted before the bar of ‘world opinion’, first by humanitarians and missionaries and then conquer- ors and colonisers. Half-way through the process, colonial states were indicted before the bar of an enlarged world opinion by nationalists and humanitarians and, increasingly, by missionaries. Today it is Afri- can states once again who find themselves on trial for rapacity and authoritarianism. The indictments are brought by humanitarians, church leaders, and the sort of young Africans who would once have been nationalists and are now democrats. … Whatever else this irony tells us, it abundantly reveals that the problem of legitimacy has been central to the state in late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Africa. Terence Ranger and Olufemi Vaughan1 African social formations are not necessarily converging towards a single point, trend, or cycle. They harbour the possibility of a variety of trajec- tories neither convergent nor divergent but interlocked, paradoxically. More philosophically, it may be supposed that the present as experience of a time is precisely that moment when different forms of absence become mixed together: absence of those presences that are no longer so and that one remembers (the past), and absence of those others that are yet to come and are anticipated (the future). Achille Mbembe2 This book was written at a time when the analytical gridlock put in place by hegemonic nationalist historiographies was being unlocked. A time when struggles for democratisation of politics were provoking concomitant 1 T. Ranger and O. Vaughan,...

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