Land (In)Justice and Ambiguous Conservationisms in Cathy Buckle's Letters of the Zimbabwean Crisis

Land (In)Justice and Ambiguous Conservationisms in Cathy Buckle's Letters of the Zimbabwean Crisis

Author: 
Nyambi, Oliver
Place: 
Oxon
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis Group
Date published: 
2021
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Journal of Southern African Studies
Source: 
Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 47, No. 5, 2021, pp. 851-867
Abstract: 

It is more than two decades now since the earliest state-endorsed appropriations of mostly white-owned commercial farms in Zimbabwe. The Third Chimurenga - or Fast-Track Land Reform Programme, as the land takeovers were later on officially tagged - triggered an unprecedented economic cataclysm from which the country is struggling to emerge. Over the years, there has been a rush to document, in multiple archives, experiences of the Third Chimurenga. Naturally, white Zimbabwean farm life-writings thrived during this period as victims of land loss sought to inscribe themselves into its narration. In available studies, their writings are usually read against the backdrop of the state's Third Chimurenga narrative as complex alternative archives of the event. Such studies have mainly explored existential complications of landed whiteness, focusing primarily on how it informs particular notions of land (in)justice. In open letters written by Cathy Buckle during and following her farm's invasion, land justice is discursively entangled with concerns about ecological/environmental justice. This article examines the semantic and aesthetic implications of this 'entanglement'. Focus is placed on the ways in which environmental damage is discursively deployed as a moral site for contesting the state's narrative of land. Beyond this, however, the article argues that, in her preoccupation with establishing moral deficits in violent farm appropriations, Buckle's construction of white victimhood in terms of environmental harm manifests stereotypic sub/un/conscious innuendos that ambiguate and problematise the moral claim of her concept of land (in)justice. This, I further contend, complicates the status and function of the Zimbabwean 'farm narrative' as an unproblematic archive pluralising the Third Chimurenga narrative of land upheavals.

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CITATION: Nyambi, Oliver. Land (In)Justice and Ambiguous Conservationisms in Cathy Buckle's Letters of the Zimbabwean Crisis . Oxon : Taylor & Francis Group , 2021. Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 47, No. 5, 2021, pp. 851-867 - Available at: http://library.au.int/land-injustice-and-ambiguous-conservationisms-cathy-buckles-letters-zimbabwean-crisis