Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe

Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe

The Ground of Politics
Rutherford, Blair
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/19/2016
Format: Paperback 4 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-02403-9
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In the early twentieth-first century, white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were subject to large-scale occupations by black urban dwellers in an increasingly violent struggle between national electoral politics, land reform, and contestations over democracy. Were the black occupiers being freed from racist bondage as cheap laborers by the state-supported massive land redistribution, or were they victims of state violence who had been denied access to their homes, social services, and jobs? Blair Rutherford examines the unequal social and power relations shaping the lives, livelihoods, and struggles of some of the farm workers during this momentous period in Zimbabwean history. His analysis is anchored in the time he spent on a horticultural farm just east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, that was embroiled in the tumult of political violence associated with jambanja, the democratization movement. Rutherford complicates this analysis by showing that there was far more in play than political oppression by a corrupt and authoritarian regime and a movement to rectify racial and colonial land imbalances, as dominant narratives would have it. Instead, he reveals, farm worker livelihoods, access to land, gendered violence, and conflicting promises of rights and sovereignty played a more important role in the political economy of citizenship and labor than had been imagined.

Author Bio

Blair Rutherford is professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology (cross-appointed to the Institute of African Studies, the Institute of Political Economy, and Department of Geography and Environmental Studies) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.


An explicit and well-argued critique of the polarized debate on contemporary Zimbabwe by providing an alternative understanding of the conflict in terms of electoral politics, pursuit of material livelihoods, and forms of belonging.Makes a distinctive contribution to an emerging literature on labor in Africa, specificially in relation to farm workers . . . The reader is drawn into both their courageous struggles and their suffering, without the writing ever descending into pathos or melodrama. Blair Rutherford's in-depth knowledge of the wider literature on Zimbabwe further illuminates these events.

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. "Oppression," Maraiti and Farm Worker Livelihoods: Shifting Grounds in the 1990s
2. The Traction of Rights, the Art of Politics: The Labor "War" at Upfumi
3. The Drama of Politics: Dissension, Suffering, and Violence
4. Politics and Precarious Livelihoods during the Time of Jambanja
Conclusion: Representing Labor Struggles
Appendix: Correspondence with the President’s Office

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