MADHERUKA AND SHANGWE: ETHNIC IDENTITIES AND THE CULTURE OF MODERNITY IN GOKWE, NORTHWESTERN ZIMBABWE, 1963–79 1
In colonial Southern Rhodesia, administrative officials often couched the rhetoric of ‘modernization’ in ethnic terms. They regarded immigrant Madheruka master farmers as the embodiment of modernization because they had been exposed to forces of modernization in their areas of origin, while both officials and immigrants alike regarded indigenous Shangwe as backward and primitive. This article argues that the construction of Madheruka and Shangwe ethnic identities dates primarily to the early 1960s, with the coming of immigrants and the introduction of cotton. Shangwe defined the immigrants as madheruka, a term whose origins lay in the eviction of the immigrants from crown land by colonial officials in the 1950s, while Madheruka termed the indigenous peoples shangwe, or backward. Each group perceived itself differently, however, Shangwe claiming that the term Shangwe referred to a place rather than to their ethnic identity and Madheruka claiming to belong to authentic Shona groups. The guerrilla war of the 1970s witnessed an attack on modernity as the guerrillas and their sympathizers regarded immigrant farmers as colonial collaborators.
Key Words: Zimbabwe; colonial; agriculture; ethnicity.
1 The research on which this article is based was conducted primarily in the Umniati Area of southeastern Gokwe between September 1996 and October 1997. The field research was made possible by a grant from Rockefeller Dissertation Internship Award. I would like to acknowledge the assistance I got from Agritex at Gokwe Center, Gokwe Rural District Council, Umniati Cooperative and the many villagers of Gokwe who not only welcomed me in their homes, but were prepared to share their life histories with me. I wish to thank Allison Shutt, Sara Berry, Jonathon Glassman and members of the Economic History Department at the University of Zimbabwe for their critical suggestions and support as this paper took shape.