A historical study of industrial ethnicity in urban colonial Zimbabwe and its contemporary transitions : the case of African Harare, c. 1890-1980
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.
This thesis provides a critical and historical analysis of industrial ethnicity in African Harare between the 1890s and 1980. It examines the origins, dynamics and ambiguities of industrial ethnicity in urban colonial Harare (then Salisbury) and its attendant implications for socio-economic wellbeing and inter-group relations. It locates industrial ethnicity within broader questions of inequality and social difference, especially issues like affordability, materiality and power. The thesis pays particular attention to individuals and groups’ differential access to the ‘raw materials’ used in imagining and constructing forms of identification. The thesis is empirically grounded in a specific case study of industrial ethnicity among disparate African groups in urban colonial Zimbabwe, and in the context formed by factors that fomented ethnic enclaves in African Harare’s competitive labour markets during particular historical epochs. Such complex currents remain under-represented in current Zimbabwean historical literature. This is despite the salience and resonance of industrial ethnicity, as well as its multi-layered and ambiguous implications for inter-group relations, and its potential to create differential access to life chances for individuals and groups. The thesis contends that in crisis situations, people tend to identify with their ‘type’ and to use ethnic, kinship and other social ties in their scramble for socio-economic and political resources. This usually involves definitions and re-definitions of ‘selves’ and ‘others’; ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’; contestations and negotiations over identification; and how these varied identities are ‘materialised’. The ways in which migrant workers positioned themselves in the labour market depended on ensuing socio-economic inequalities and the use of social networks, which were indispensable conduits for the transmission of job information and local intelligence. The prevalence of ethnic enclaves and widespread ethnic clusters in colonial Harare’s labour market is explained in terms of a complex synergy of factors, including behavioural, historical, institutional and structural elements. Equally, industrial ethnicity, which had pre-colonial precedents, remained contested, fluid, and ambiguous, and was one among a range of forms of identification available to Salisbury’s African migrant workers. The thesis further situates African ethnicity in its political context by examining its ambivalent interaction with nationalist politics, gender and ‘othering’ work. It contends that African nationalism’s inherent underlying contradictions and tensions, and the subsequent dual categorisation of citizens into ‘patriots’ and ‘sell-outs’ set the stage for hegemonic (and counter-hegemonic) politics, ethnic competition and the politics of marginalisation in postcolonial Zimbabwe.