Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

The Zimbabwean Liberation War: Contesting Representations of Nation and Nationalism in Historical fiction/Die Bevrydingsoorlog in Zimbabwe: Botsende Voorstellings Van Die Nasie En Nasionalisme in Historiese Fiksie

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

The Zimbabwean Liberation War: Contesting Representations of Nation and Nationalism in Historical fiction/Die Bevrydingsoorlog in Zimbabwe: Botsende Voorstellings Van Die Nasie En Nasionalisme in Historiese Fiksie

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article examines the array of macro and micro historical factors that stirred historical agency in the 1970s war against colonial settlerism as depicted in selected liberation war fiction. This war eventually led to a negotiated independence in April 1980. Historical fiction in the early 1980s is characterised by an abundance of fictional images that give expression to the macrofactors, while historical fiction in the late 1980s onwards parades a plethora of images which prioritise the microhistorical factors. Against this background, the article problematises the discussion of these factors within the context of post-independence Zimbabwean politics. It argues that the contesting representations of macro- and microfactors in historical fiction on the war symbolise the protean and fluid discourse on nation and nationalism in the Zimbabwean polity. Definitions and interpretations of nation and nationalism are at the centre of Zimbabwean politics, because they are linked to the protracted liberation war against colonialism and the politics of hegemony in the state. Macrofactors express and endorse an official view of nationalism and nation. On the other hand, microfactors problematise and contest the narrow appropriation of nation and nationalism by advocating multiple perspectives on the subject in order to subvert and counter the elite hegemony.

Opsomming

Hierdie artikel ondersoek die reeks makro- en mikrofaktore in die geskiedenis wat die sentiment teen die koloniste laat draai het soos dit in geselekteerde romans uit die bevrydingstyd uitgebeeld word. Hierdie oorlog het in April 1980 uiteindelik tot 'n onderhandelde skikking gelei. Historiese fiksie uit die vroee tagtigerjare word gekenmerk deur 'n oorvloed fiksionele beelde van die makrofaktore, terwyl die fiksie uit die laat tagtigerjare en daarna 'n veelheid beelde van die mikrofaktore beklemtoon. Teen hierdie agtergrond bevraagteken die artikel die debat oor hierdie faktore binne die konteks van die Zimbabwiese politiek na onafhanklikheid. Ons betoog dat die botsende representasies van die makro- en mikrofaktore in die historiese fiksie oor die oorlog die veranderlikheid en vloeibaarheid van die diskoers oor die nasie en oor nasionalisme in Zimbabwe simboliseer. Definisies en interpretasies van nasie en nasionalisme staan sentraal in die Zimbabwiese politiek, omdat hulle verbind word met die uitgerekte bevrydingsoorlog en die politiek van staatshegemonie. Makrofaktore druk 'n amptelike beskouing van nasionalisme en die nasie uit en onderskryf dit ook. Andersyds problematiseer mikrofaktore die eng toeeiening van die nasie en nasionalisme, want dit druk veelvuldige perspektiewe op die onderwerp uit wat die hegemonie van die elite teenwerk en ondermyn.

I. Introduction

The central concern in this article is the Zimbabwean writers' conceptual recreation of the array of macro and micro historical factors that galvanised various characters to partake in the liberation struggle in the 1970s. It problematises the discussion of these factors by reading them as fictive historiographical representations which must be conceptualised as signifiers to fluid and protean discourses on nation and nationalism in Zimbabwe. Nation and nationalism are sites for vigorous intellectual contestations between the ruling minority on the one hand, and the majority of the so-called ordinary people in Zimbabwe on the other hand. As Ranger (2005:217) observes: "Nationalism as a movement, or set of movements, and as an ideology, remains central to contemporary Zimbabwe and still requires a great deal of rigorous historical questioning." Consequently, the fluidity of the definitions of nation and nationalism as seen through the prism of macro and micro factors defies any barricading in morbid, static and monolithic reconstruction of narratives of liberation history which unfortunately have been used as fountains for political absolutism in independent Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa. …

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