Galas, biras, state funerals and the necropolitan imagination in re-constructions of the Zimbabwean nation, 1980-2008

Muchemwa K.Z. (2010)


This study focuses on the regime of the spectacle as it is deployed by the postcolonial state to establish hegemony and claim legitimacy, with reference to Zimbabwe from 1980 up to the establishment of the Government of National Unity in 2008. This period is dominated by the ZANU-PF narrative of the nation, in which imagining the nation excludes and disposes of undesirable individuals and groups. The study is framed by Achille Mbembe's critique of the postcolony with special reference to two key terms - metafiction and dramaturgy of the state's magnificence - in order to analyse how spectacle creates and occludes meaning. Guy Debord's concept of the 'society of the spectacle' has also been adapted here to extend Mbembe's analysis of the spectacular in the postcolony. In the context of the Zimbabwean postcolony, this allows for a reading of post-2000 legislative and bureaucratic manoeuvres as marking a surge in the mediatisation of politics to demonstrate state power using symbols, described here as symbolic capital, to forge national homogeneity. The state sought to re-energise its patriotic metafiction through galas, biras, funerals, commemorations and other state rituals. A particular obsession with the cemetery defines the necropolitan imagination and underpins an aesthetics of heroism. This article explores the implications this has had in the production of vulgar materialism, violence and insecurities of citizenship and nationality. © 2010 Taylor & Francis.

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