Andrea L. Arrington-Sirois

Ecoutez l’enregistrement de la communication :

Summary : “Whitewashed Violence: The Race, Gender, and History of Violence in Southern Rhodesia and Contemporary Zimbabwe”

Since the early 2000s, in global coverage of Zimbabwe the face of the victims of political violence has been mostly a white one.  The experiences of white Zimbabweans, both women and men, have been documented in an extensive body of literature and international media coverage that largely portrays them as victims of forced land evictions and mob attacks.  The memoirs written by and interviews with white women in particular rely on nostalgia for the colonial past to not only shape their description of the violence they face in contemporary Zimbabwe but also whitewashes or erases the political violence of that colonial past experienced by black Zimbabweans.  It also minimizes the violence endured by black Zimbabweans in post independence Zimbabwe.  The result is an problematically uneven portrayal of violence- the de-emphasis of violence experienced by the black population under colonial and white minority rule sweeps away historical reality while the highlighting of state sponsored violence against the white Zimbabweans since 1980 creates a false sense of scope in terms of which part of the population faced persistent violence.  In effect, violence against the black population is erased in the same narratives that emphasize violence against the white population.  This topic allows for a critical consideration of the intersection between race and gender in the way that experiences of political violence in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe has been portrayed by white Zimbabweans and the media.

Zimbabwe but also whitewashes or erases the political violence of that colonial past experienced by black Zimbabweans.  It also minimizes the violence endured by black Zimbabweans in post independence Zimbabwe.  The result is an problematically uneven portrayal of violence- the de-emphasis of violence experienced by the black population under colonial and white minority rule sweeps away historical reality while the highlighting of state sponsored violence against the white Zimbabweans since 1980 creates a false sense of scope in terms of which part of the population faced persistent violence.  In effect, violence against the black population is erased in the same narratives that emphasize violence against the white population.  This topic allows for a critical consideration of the intersection between race and gender in the way that experiences of political violence in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe has been portrayed by white Zimbabweans and the media.

Inspired by Laura Ann Stoler’s analytical framework of imperial ruin and debris, this paper seeks to examine how the political violence of post independence Zimbabwe has been subjected to such significant whitewashing.  Stoler writes that, “in thinking about imperial debris and ruin one is struck by how intuitively evocative and elusive such effects are, how easy it is to slip between metaphor and material object, between infrastructure and imagery, between remnants of matter and mind.  The point of critical analysis is not to look ‘underneath’ or ‘beyond’ that slippage but to understand what work that slippage does and the political traffic it harbors.”[1]   I examine the political violence depicted by white Zimbabwean women to explore how their nostalgia for a lost homeland and feelings of displacement and unease has dominated discourse about violence in Zimbabwe in the 21st century.  In telling their individual and collective stories, we see what Stoler identifies as areas of slippage- between the metaphorical and the material, the infrastructure and imager, the matter and the mind.   The history described by white Zimbabwean women does not often align with the history described by black Zimbabweans and analyzed by scholars.  A critical reading of memoirs, news articles, and interviews from the last two decades demonstrate how white Zimbabwean women have helped create a narrative that highlights violence against white Zimbabweans and that has successfully shaped international coverage of Zimbabwe since 1980.  The result of this whitewashing of contemporary violence relies heavily on a rewriting of colonial history, in which white women construct a pervasive narrative of widespread racial harmony, fictive kin bonds between themselves and black Zimbabweans, and altruistic and/or humanitarian motivation for their political, economic, and social positions in Southern Rhodesia.  This paper explores how contemporary violence is reshaping historical memory and storytelling.  The resultant discourse about white victims of violence reflects on the race, gender, and history of violence in Southern Rhodesia and contemporary Zimbabwe.  

Biography :

Dr. Andrea L. Arrington-Sirois is an Assistant Professor of History at Indiana State University. She is also a core faculty member of the African and African American Studies Program at ISU. Dr. Arrington’s research focuses on Southern Africa (Zambia and Zimbabwe), colonial African history, contemporary African history, and gender history. Her most recent work includes a book and journal articles about colonial development around Victoria Falls as well as a co-authored book on contemporary Africa.

————————————————————————————————————


[1] Stoler, Ann Laura. « Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination. » Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 2 (2008): 203 VisibilitéPublier4 révisionsRechercher un bloc

Inspired by Laura Ann Stoler’s analytical framework of imperial ruin and debris, this paper seeks to examine how the political violence of post independence Zimbabwe has been subjected to such significant whitewashing.  Stoler writes that, “in thinking about imperial debris and ruin one is struck by how intuitively evocative and elusive such effects are, how easy it is to slip between metaphor and material object, between infrastructure and imagery, between remnants of matter and mind.  The point of critical analysis is not to look ‘underneath’ or ‘beyond’ that slippage but to understand what work that slippage does and the political traffic it harbors.”[1]   I examine the political violence depicted by white Zimbabwean women to explore how their nostalgia for a lost homeland and feelings of displacement and unease has dominated discourse about violence in Zimbabwe in the 21st century.  In telling their individual and collective stories, we see what Stoler identifies as areas of slippage- between the metaphorical and the material, the infrastructure and imager, the matter and the mind.   The history described by white Zimbabwean women does not often align with the history described by black Zimbabweans and analyzed by scholars.  A critical reading of memoirs, news articles, and interviews from the last two decades demonstrate how white Zimbabwean women have helped create a narrative that highlights violence against white Zimbabweans and that has successfully shaped international coverage of Zimbabwe since 1980.  The result of this whitewashing of contemporary violence relies heavily on a rewriting of colonial history, in which white women construct a pervasive narrative of widespread racial harmony, fictive kin bonds between themselves and black Zimbabweans, and altruistic and/or humanitarian motivation for their political, economic, and social positions in Southern Rhodesia.  This paper explores how contemporary violence is reshaping historical memory and storytelling.  The resultant discourse about white victims of violence reflects on the race, gender, and history of violence in Southern Rhodesia and contemporary Zimbabwe.  

Biography :

Dr. Andrea L. Arrington-Sirois is an Assistant Professor of History at Indiana State University. She is also a core faculty member of the African and African American Studies Program at ISU. Dr. Arrington’s research focuses on Southern Africa (Zambia and Zimbabwe), colonial African history, contemporary African history, and gender history. Her most recent work includes a book and journal articles about colonial development around Victoria Falls as well as a co-authored book on contemporary Africa.

————————————————————————————————————


[1] Stoler, Ann Laura. « Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination. » Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 2 (2008): 203