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The Unbearable Whiteness of Being

Farmersí Voices from Zimbabwe

Rory Pilossof

Publication Year: 2012

The history of colonial land alienation, the grievances fuelling the liberation war, and post-independence land reforms have all been grist to the mill of recent scholarship on Zimbabwe. Yet for all that the countryís white farmers have received considerable attention from academics and journalists, the fact that they have always played a dynamic role in cataloguing and representing their own affairs has gone unremarked. It is this crucial dimension that Rory Pilossof explores in The Unbearable Whiteness of Being. His examination of farmersí voices ñ in The Farmer magazine, in memoirs, and in recent interviews ñ reveals continuities as well as breaks in their relationships with land, belonging and race. His focus on the Liberation War, Operation Gukurahundi and the post-2000 land invasions frames a nuanced understanding of how white farmers engaged with the land and its peoples, and the political changes of the past 40 years. The Unbearable Whiteness of Being helps to explain why many of the events in the countryside unfolded in the ways they did.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The research, writing and completion of this book has been aided by a community of people and institutions to whom a great deal of gratitude is extended. By far the largest proportion of that thanks is reserved for Professor Ian Phimister. It is no overstatement to say that without his support, guidance and counsel, ...

List of Acronyms

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pp. ix

List of Tables and Map, List of Arrpendices, A Note on Currency

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pp. x

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pp. xi-xiii

One of the most difficult challenges confronting post-colonial societies in southern Africa which had a resident white population is how to redress the inequalities of inherited land ownership and distribution. Consequently, the governments of Zimbabwe, Namibia and post-apartheid South Africa ...

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Introduction: Why the Voices of White Farmers?

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pp. 1-10

If Karenin had been a person instead of a dog, he would surely have long since said to Tereza, ‘Look, I’m sick and tired of carrying that roll around in my mouth every day. Can’t you come up with something different?’ And therein lies the whole of man’s plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. ...

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1. White Farmers & their Representatives in Zimbabwe, 1890–2000

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pp. 11-42

To say the fast-track land reform programme initiated by the Zimbabwean government in 2000 has had a dramatic effect on the country’s political, economic and social landscape since goes beyond stating the obvious. The devastating effects of these reforms and the manner in which they have been carried out has produced ...

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2. No Country for White Men: White Farmers, the Fast-Track Land Reforms and Jambanja, 2000–2004

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pp. 43-66

The increasing hostility of ZANU-PF – which was exacerbated by the rising popularity of the MDC – meant that white farming communities entered the new millennium in a cautious manner. Unsure of how the land issue would develop, many farmers became active participants in the political upheavals around them. ...

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3. Discourses of Apoliticism in The Farmer

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pp. 67-116

This chapter and those that follow focus on the experiences and discourses of white farmers as expressed in written and oral form. The core findings are based on a detailed reading of memoirs and autobiographies (Chapter Five), and on extensive interviews with white farmers still residing in Zimbabwe (Chapter Six). ...

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4. Discursive Thresholds & Episodes of Crisis: The Liberation War, Gukurahundi & the Land Occupations

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pp. 117-148

The Farmer magazine played a central role in framing and constructing the political interactions of farmers. It was used as a vehicle for the union to speak to and for the community, and the community relied on it as an avenue of communication with the union. Although the degree to which the magazine performed ...

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5. The Consolidation of Voice: White Farmers’ Autobiographies & the Narration of Experience after 2000

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pp. 149-186

This chapter looks at memoirs written by white farmers since 2000. They are one of the key ways that the farmers have chosen to relate the ordeals they have been through, and as a result provide an insight into their understandings of place, race and belonging within Zimbabwe. Such understandings of the past have ...

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6. Orphans of Empire’: Oral Expressions of Displacement & Trauma

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pp. 187-213

This book has sought to explore the ‘authentic’ voice of white farmers, to which the interviews provide a further point of access. This voice, however, is not treated as the spontaneous voice that is the implicit subject of much oral history research in Africa. Nor is it the presentation of disempowered ...

Appendix 1. CFU structure & list of past presidents

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pp. 214-216

Appendix 2. Land use on large-scale commercial farms & area under cultivation in hectares, 1970–1999

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pp. 217

Appendix 3. Summary of major crop sales in $Z millions, 1970–1999

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pp. 218

Appendix 4. The number of large-scale commercial farms & the total area occupied in hectares, 1970–1999

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pp. 219

Appendix 5. White farmers killed between 1964–79, 1981–87 and 2000–04

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pp. 220-227

Appendix 6. Date of purchase on the title deeds of farming properties listed in the 1997 acquisition list

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pp. 228

Appendix 7. Biographical data on white farmers interviewed

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pp. 229-236


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pp. 237-256


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pp. 257-265

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pp. 266

This really happened when I was back visiting the old man who lived across the road from my mother in my home town of Ninety Six, South Carolina. J. Hilton Lewis was his name. While I was there two other men, who I also knew well, drove up. As they approached us, they asked Hilton if he had heard about the murder. ...

Back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781779221971
Print-ISBN-13: 9781779221698

Page Count: 282
Publication Year: 2012