Narratives of progress : Zimbabwean historiography and the end of history

18 Jan 2017

This brief commentary takes its inspiration from the opening address delivered by John Hoffman, and printed in these pages; that is, progress is usefully understood as a contradictory, contested and ambiguous process. But rather than attempt a comprehensive survey of the past 40 or so years of academic analyses of Zimbabwe’s pasts, what follows has as its focus the emergence of ‘patriotic history’ and particularly its nationalist antecedents. These are critically examined. Although not concerned with the generality of recent studies that are neither nationalist nor materialist in orientation, this paper sketches in outline the rise, fall and rise of radical accounts. It ends by suggesting how such analyses might be taken forward.