Farm Labour Struggles in Zimbabwe: The Ground of Politics

Book Launch and Discussion

The African Centre for Migration & Society and Humanities Graduate Centre are pleased to host Professor Blair Rutherford (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University), in discussion with Duduzile Ndlovu (ACMS, University of the Witwatersrand), Edmore Chitukutuku (Department of Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand) & Wellington Mvundura (Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand) for a launch of his new book Farm Labour Struggles in Zimbabwe: The Ground of Politics. In the early twentieth-first century, white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were subject to large-scale occupations by black urban dwellers in an increasingly violent struggle between national electoral politics, land reform, and contestations over democracy. Were the black occupiers being freed from racist bondage as cheap laborers by the state-supported massive land redistribution, or were they victims of state violence who had been denied access to their homes, social services, and jobs? Blair Rutherford examines the unequal social and power relations shaping the lives, livelihoods, and struggles of some of the farm workers during this momentous period in Zimbabwean history.

His analysis is anchored in the time he spent on a horticultural farm just east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, that was embroiled in the tumult of political violence associated with jambanja, the democratization movement. Rutherford complicates this analysis by showing that there was far more in play than political oppression by a corrupt and authoritarian regime and a movement to rectify racial and colonial land imbalances, as dominant narratives would have it. Instead, he reveals, farm worker livelihoods, access to land, gendered violence, and conflicting promises of rights and sovereignty played a more important role in the political economy of citizenship and labor than had been imagined.


Blair Rutherford is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He has over twenty years of research experience on examining the cultural politics of land, labour and resources in Zimbabwe and South Africa and is currently involved with colleagues in Canada and Africa on a series of projects concerning artisanal and small scale mining and women in several sub-Saharan African countries. He is the author of Working on the Margins: Black Workers, White Farmers in Postcolonial Zimbabwe (2000, Zed Books/Weaver Press) and co-editor (with Doris Buss, Joanne Lebert, Donna Sharkey, and Obi Aginam) of Sexual Violence in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies: International Agendas and African Contexts (2014, Routledge), and has published numerous articles in a range of academic journals and non-academic publications. 

Copies of the book will be on sale

Venue: Humanities Graduate Centre Seminar Room, South West Engineering Building, Wits University East Campus

Date: Thursday 25 May

Time: 4 pm - 6 pm