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The Politics of Ndebele Ethnicity: Origins, Nationality, and Gender in Southern Zimbabwe
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Arts, Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The thesis examines the politics of Ndebele ethnicity and, by extension, how this politics is related to present-day national politics in Zimbabwe. The author applies two approaches to ethnicity. On the one hand, he outlines the historical processes through which subjects have been created as Ndebele over time. On the other hand, he shows how actors themselves enact ethnic identity for political ends in the present. The issues addressed in the thesis revolve around two main questions: To what extent is Ndebele ethnicity a colonial phenomenon? And to what degree is it separable from other kinds of identification?

In addressing the first question, the author refutes the claim that Ndebele ethnicity was "invented" during the colonial period, and argues that Ndebele ethnicity is both rooted in pre-colonial processes and has been strengthened during the post-colonial period. The Zanu-pf government’s employment of Shona-speaking soldiers against Ndebele-speaking civilians after independence in 1980 has especially strengthened awareness of being Ndebele and given rise to new conceptions of Ndebelehood.

In reply to the second question, the author holds that ethnicity needs to be analysed in relation to other aspects of social life. In order to show how Ndebele ethnicity is related to other kinds of identification, he relates Ndebele ethnicity to issues of origins and hierarchy, to Zimbabwean nationality, and to gender and kinship. The relation between ethnicity and gender has been particularly neglected in previous research on Ndebele ethnicity.

The author draws three conclusions about the present political situation in Zimbabwe. Firstly, the Zanu-pf government uses a similar strategy to stay in power today as it did after independence in 1980, but it now plays on race instead of ethnicity to gain popular support and strike at the political opposition. Secondly, the heightened awareness of being Ndebele explains the widespread support for the political opposition found in the rural areas of southern Zimbabwe. And thirdly, as has been the case throughout Zimbabwe’s history, male youth have been mobilised to carry out seemingly unorganised political violence.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Institutionen för kulturantropologi och etnologi , 2002. , 271 p.
Keyword [en]
Cultural anthropology, conflict, ethnicity, gender, identity, masculinity, media, nationalism, Ndebele, politics, Zimbabwe
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Research subject
Cultural Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-2136OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-2136DiVA: diva2:161768
Public defence
2002-06-04, 1022, Uppsala, 13:15
Available from: 2002-05-14 Created: 2002-05-14Bibliographically approved

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