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State Cynicism, Violence, Deaths, and the (Im)Possibility of Politics in Zimbabwe

Melusi Nkomo, Program in African Studies

Wed, 3/27 · 12:00 pm1:30 pm · 161 Louis A. Simpson Building

Program in African Studies, PIIRS

This working paper is based on an ethnography of politics in Zimbabwe’s artisanal and small-scale mining regions. In Zimbabwe’s poor townships and communities, the general people, particularly the youth, routinely encounter untimely deaths or near-death experiences. In places such as the mining town of Kwekwe, situated in the center of the country where the research was conducted, various factors contribute to the situation. These factors include organized or opportunistic violence, dilapidated and damaged infrastructure, mudslides, explosions, collapses of mining shafts, widespread alcohol and drug epidemics, poisoning incidents, and the overall vulnerability of life due to illnesses. The origins, symptoms, and repercussions of precarious existence in these townships are always terrible, yet no longer surprising. The talk examines the relationship between the state and society in areas characterized by regular loss of life and immense social suffering. It contends that these experiences create an environment that fosters a particularly cynical approach to politics by the state, as well as the occasional opportunistic exercise of state sovereignty. Equally, these experiences mediate the impossibility of a collective politics that can change the situation for the better for the largely impoverished and politically dejected poor communities.

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