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Gallagher, Julia (2020) 'The monster that hid under a desk? Zimbabwe and the West.' In: Tendi, Miles, McGregor, JoAnn and Alexander, Jocelyn, (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Zimbabwean Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Oxford handbooks online)

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Zimbabwe’s diplomatic relations with Britain became exceptionally fractious from about 2000. Britain’s New Labour government publicly criticized the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party for its violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms, political violence, and rolling back of democracy. ZANU-PF countered the British government’s accusation, describing it as unwarranted interference in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs by an ex-colonial master. Such highly charged accusations between government elites of both countries have tended to animate scholarly debates about the nature of Zimbabwe–-Britain relations. This chapter does something different: it examines understandings of Zimbabwe–Britain relations, drawing on research interviews with Zimbabwean non-elites. The chapter argues that Zimbabwean and British political elites instrumentalized the diplomatic quarrel in order to position themselves as honourable wardens of their respective countries and particular norms such as human rights and sovereignty. However, the chapter further contends, non-elites’ comprehensions of the diplomatic argument reveal the limits of this instrumentalization and reflect the complicated and ambivalent appreciations of Zimbabwe–Britain relations. The diplomatic argument attained popular resonances and dissonances, which reflect a multifaceted existential entanglement with roots in the colonial era. Ideas of the expulsion of white farmers as a representation of ‘real independence’ and the display of the shortcomings of a post-colonial order on the other end, impress particular self-understandings and identities.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: diplomatic relations, identity, sovereignty, colonialism, self-understandings
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of Politics & International Studies
ISBN: 9780198805472
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2020 08:39

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