Whiteness in Zimbabwe: Race, Landscape, and the Problem of Belonging

Paperback | April 15, 2010

byDavid McDermott Hughes

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Victims of political persecution since 2000, Zimbabwe’s whites have never overcome the problem of belonging. In North America and Australia, Europeans became the majority and “normal” partially through the genocide of native peoples. Settlers to Zimbabwe, however, only comprised a tiny minority. They monopolized the territory but struggled to assimilate culturally. Rather than integrating with African societies, many adopted a strategy of social escape. In this arresting and powerful study, David McDermott Hughes shows how they became emotionally and artistically invested in the non-human environment surrounding them. He traces how writers, artists, and farmers crafted a white identity focused on ecological conservation and how, emerging from state terror, some are now groping toward a whiteness of uncommon humanity and humility.    

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Victims of political persecution since 2000, Zimbabwe’s whites have never overcome the problem of belonging. In North America and Australia, Europeans became the majority and “normal” partially through the genocide of native peoples. Settlers to Zimbabwe, however, only comprised a tiny minority. They monopolized the territory but strug...

David McDermott Hughes is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Human Ecology at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. His first book, From Enslavement to Environmentalism: Politics on a Southern African Frontier, appeared in 2006.

other books by David McDermott Hughes

Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.48 inPublished:April 15, 2010Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230621430

ISBN - 13:9780230621435

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Table of Contents

Preface * The Art of Belonging * The Zambezi * Engineering and its Redemption * Owning Lake Kariba * The Farms * Hydrology of Hope * Playing the Game * Belonging Awkwardly * References   

Editorial Reviews

"American scholar David McDermott Hughes has published a fascinating study of how the whites who left the British Isles and other countries in Europe forged an identity in the hostile Zimbabwe environment. Whiteness in Zimbabwe is a deeply engaging book and will make interesting reading for any reader. It takes topics that are seemingly unrelated to make a fascinating and cogent argument about how hydrology (dams, in normal speak) and environment shaped Zimbabwe's identity politics."—Mail & Guardian "Hughes ingeniously and persuasively weaves together ethnography, environmentalism, and aesthetics. His eloquent study of the white settler fetish for scenery has broad interdisciplinary ramifications for the future of race studies. At the same time, Hughes' book creates a major bridgehead between the environmental social sciences and the environmental humanities." - Rob Nixon, Rachel Carson Professor of English, University of Wisconsin and author of Dreambirds: The Natural History of a Fantasy "It took a book this engaging to show us how linked the categories of race and space are. The entitlements and embodiments of white settlement shaped the history and hydrology of agriculture and development in Zimbabwe. In the end, Hughes tells us, the farms and fictions hewn from an imaginary wilderness were no more natural than the politics of exclusion that dominated twentieth and now twenty-first century Zimbabwe." - Luise White, Professor of History, University of Florida and author of The Assassination of Herbert Chitepo: Texts and Politics in Zimbabwe "Whiteness in Zimbabwe is a powerful analysis of how, as the author puts it, 'environmental conservation and white identity have produced and shaped each other.' Through a careful and convincing analysis of both agricultural practices and forms of representation such as literature and photography, it lays bare the way that white settlers' romance with nature and landscape has been both a way of claiming mastery and belonging in an alien land, and a way of avoiding meaningful engagement with the majority black population. With implications that go far beyond Africa (not least, to the 'neo-Europes' of North America and Australia), this book is a major intervention into the vigorous current global debates on the politics of conservation." - James Ferguson, Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University and author of Global Shadows: Africa in the Neoliberal World Order