Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe

Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe

The Ground of Politics
Blair Rutherford
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 12/19/2016
Format: Paperback 4 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-02403-9
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:

Buy from Amazon


Co-winner, Joel Gregory Prize, Canadian Association of African Studies

In the early twenty-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.”
 — Peter Gibbon, author of Trading Down: Africa, Value Chains, and the Global Economy

“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.”
 — Pnina Werbner, author of The Making of an African Working Class

“This book makes a fundamental contribution to expanding our understanding of agrarian politics in Zimbabwe.”
 — Journal of Southern African Studies

 — Choice

“In this rich ethnography of the world of farm workers at the turn of the century, Rutherford skillfully demonstrates the entanglement of labor struggles with national politics. . . . On the whole, this work is a good contribution to agrarian studies, labor studies, and postcolonial politics in Africa. ”
 — African Studies Quarterly

Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe is an excellent ethnographic study of farmworkers in Zimbabwe and how they negotiated their belonging and carved out new livelihoods in the context of an agrarian revolution. This book should be on the shelf of anyone with an interest in land reform, farm labour, identity and belonging in Zimbabwe and beyond.”
 — Africa

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

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

Related Titles