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Reinvoking the past in the present: changing identities and appropriations of Joshua Nkomo in post-colonial Zimbabwe

Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J. and Willems, Wendy (2010) Reinvoking the past in the present: changing identities and appropriations of Joshua Nkomo in post-colonial Zimbabwe. African Identities, 8 (3). pp. 191-208. ISSN 1472-5843

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Identification Number: 10.1080/14725843.2010.491619


This article discusses the histories, narratives and representations that have been produced by and on former ZAPU leader and Vice-President of Zimbabwe, Joshua Nkomo. We focus on the multiple identities and subject positions that Nkomo came to inhabit in the way in which he was represented in ZANU-PF’s discourse of the early 1980s; his self-representation in Nkomo’s 1984 autobiography Nkomo: the story of my life and subsequent appropriations of Nkomo by different political actors in the early 2000s. In line with Stuart Hall’s 1996 description, we consider identities not as essentialist and fixed categories but as positional, multiple, constantly evolving and constructed through difference. We argue that the changing identities of Nkomo served the purposes and interests of a variety of political actors, ranging from the ruling party ZANU-PF to the opposition MDC. Against the background of a mushrooming of popular historical narratives evidenced by both the publication and republishing of biographies, autobiographies and significant reports, and the serialisation and recirculation of these texts in newspapers and through websites, we also argue that the many uses and appropriations of Nkomo demonstrate the continued relevance of the past in the power struggles waged by different political actors in Zimbabwe.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2010 Routledge
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2013 13:11
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2021 02:08

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