War stories: guerrilla narratives of Zimbabwe's liberation war

Alexander, Jocelyn and McGregor, JoAnn (2004) War stories: guerrilla narratives of Zimbabwe's liberation war. History Workshop Journal, 57 (1). pp. 79-100. ISSN 1363-3554

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This article is about guerrilla narratives of war, as told by veterans of the Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA), one of two armies that fought in Zimbabwe’s war for independence in the 1970s. Our discussion contributes a new perspective to the rich literature on Zimbabwe’s liberation war, and to studies of soldiers’ stories more broadly, by exploring the narrative form and content of these accounts. Guerrillas’ stories highlight the transformative experience of becoming a soldier, the commonality of experience among guerrillas, and their strong sense of biographical trajectory. They underline the contrasts between their own and civilians’ memories and experience of war. Guerrilla narratives are also revealing of the political uses of war history, at particular moments in time. In the mid-1990s, their stories highlighted the gulf between personal memory and public commemoration. ZIPRA guerrillas fought for the losing party in Zimbabwe’s first elections. They were excluded from the official celebration of heroes, and in the 1980s they were, along with civilians, persecuted as a disloyal and dangerous threat to the nation. ZIPRA guerillas’ narratives are critical of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU(PF) party, of its conduct during the war, and of its post-colonial uses of liberation war history. ZIPRA guerrillas wanted to gain public recognition for their sacrifices, to insert their experience into the nation’s official history, and to underline the illegitimacy of ZANU(PF)’s uses of violence. Only five years later, however, these same guerrillas allied themselves to ZANU(PF) and collaborated in the production of a ‘patriotic’ history intended to legitimate an embattled and violently intolerant ruling party.

Copyright History Workshop Journal 2004

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Depositing User: Nadya Herrera Catalan
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2015 07:19
Last Modified: 10 Feb 2015 07:19
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/52798
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