Cultural Constructions of Zimbabwe
The project was initiated by Mai Palmberg and started in 2007 with a workshop in Harare in November. The thought behind this two-pronged effort was to launch the project in Zimbabwe, and make it possible for Zimbabwean scholars to take part. It was followed by a workshop in Oxford in June 2008, arranged to dovetail with the Zimbabwe research day, organised by the Britain-Zimbabwe Society with professor Terence Ranger as primus motor. These workshops were made possible thanks to funding support from Sida, the Swedish International Development Authority.
The ideas behind the project
Nations are constructed, not born. The construction of the nation is both a political, economic and cultural process. This project foregrounds the cultural process. An 'imagined community' as Benedict Anderson put it, must be forged. Immediate post-independence stressed nation-building, unity, traditions and development ideology.
In the past two decades these assumptions have been revisited not only by largely Western post-colonialist scholars pursuing deconstruction of public discourse, but also by a number of artists and intellectuals in Africa, who in various ways critique the nationalist cultural agenda, and suggests new and pluralist perspectives and visions. A new dialogue and discourse on the construction of the nation emerges. This interplay - sometimes in collaboration, sometimes in tension - between political rulers and artists, inspires this project on the cultural construction of Zimbabwe.
The vision is to discuss with many different cases and genres how cultural construction of the nation has taken place, with its contradictions. This should contribute to an understanding of Zimbabwean cultural and political history, but also to the theoretical study of power and resistance, and the role of creativity in forming consciousness. By looking at other arenas than the party political scene, a more multi-faceted history is sought of Zimbabwe and of “being Zimbabwean”.
The book project
Selected papers from the two workshops described below, with some added commissioned papers, form the contents of a book project, with Kizito Muchemwa (Masvingo), Robert Muponde (Johannesburg) and Mai Palmberg as editors.
Report from workshop 'Towards Cultural Constructions of Zimbabwe' (pdf)
27 June 2008, Oxford, England