Browsing Doctoral Degrees (History) by Subject "Agrarian historiography of African food histories"
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- ItemA social, economic and environmental history of African small grain in Zimbabwe from the pre-colonial past and present(Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2021-12) Kauma, Bryan Umaru; Swart, Sandra S.; Stellenbosch University. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Dept. of History.ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis examines the social, economic, and environmental history of African small grains – sorghum, millet and rapoko – in what is today Zimbabwe. It traces their development over shifting social, economic, political, and ecological periods from the pre-colonial era (from c.1500) to around 2010, after the formation of the Government of National Unity. Joining an already robust historiography, this study contributes by focusing on crops previously ignored, thus by paying special attention to the development of the ‘underbelly’ of the country’s agrarian economy. Relying on a wide selection of primary sources from the National Archives of Zimbabwe and oral testimonies by African farmers and families, government personnel and academics, this study shows how from the precolonial era to the present, small grains have been integral to everyday African life, significant in socio-economic, environmental, and political processes in several African societies over time. It shows how different communities varyingly appreciated, produced and consumed small grains. Notably, this study demonstrates how the history of small grains is not just a story of crop production and consumption but is a complex social and political history of how Africans have survived the ‘slow violence’ of climatic and economic change, as well as precipitous disasters such as droughts and famines. Moreover, it contends that small grains became politicised. Located within discourses of state- making, hegemony and agency, this thesis conceptualizes ‘political grain’ to illustrate how – while small grains were used as a tool to control the economic and political narratives in the country by various elites – it was equally an expression of ‘weapons of the weak’. In this latter capacity, it was deployed by individuals to challenge some patriarchal and religious gatekeepers’ attempts to keep their grip on social control. The thesis analyses the changes and continuities in small grain culinary patterns, observing how while most Africans were introduced to new food and ways of eating, for others, of their own volition, they adopted and adapted culinary ideas, while still using small grains. This thesis offers an analysis of the complex relationship between men and women, Africans and whites, peasants and elites, ordinary citizens and the state, society and the environment. Thus, it joins the growing, yet fragmented, agrarian historiography of African food histories and contributes towards a wider understanding of previously ignored African crops in Zimbabwe’s history.