This post builds on the research article “Subaltern Struggles and the Politics of Place: Remapping Resistance in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands,” which was published in the August 1998 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.
Cultural Anthropology has published many essays on place. See, for example, Gastón Gordillo's "The Dialectic of Estrangement: Memory and the Production of Places of Wealth and Poverty in the Argentinean Chaco" (2002); Andrea Muehlebach's "'Making Place' at the United Nations: Indigenous Cultural Politics at the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations" (2001); and Raffles's "44Local Theory": Nature and the Making of an Amazonian Place" (1999)
Cultural Anthropology has also published many essays focused specifically on Zimbabwe and Mozambique. These include Juan M. Obarrio's "Remains: To Be Seen. Third Encounter between State and 'Customary' in Northern Mozambique" (2010); David McDermott Hughes's "Third Nature: Making Space and Time in the Great Limpopo Conservation Area" (2005); and Blair Rutherford's "Desired Publics, Domestic Goverment, and Entangled Fears: On the Anthropology of Civil Society, Farm Workers, and White Farmers in Zimbabwe" (2004).
Questions for Classroom Discussion
1. Moore identifies a lack of attention to the politics of place in resistance studies. Why is this lack of attention problematic? Also, when space is referenced in such studies how is it characterized and why is this characterization inhibiting? What is Moore’s solution?
2. How does James Scott analyze resistance in Malaysia? How have feminists critiqued Scott’s analysis? Relate the feminist critique to Moore’s critique of Scott.
3. How are agrarian studies and subaltern studies related?
4. What strategy did the Tagwena chieftainship undertake to prevent the eviction of him and his followers in 1967-1972? How did the colonial officials counter this strategy? How is this strategy resurrected against the postcolonial state?
5. Is there an autonomous space of resistance?
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In his 1998 essay “Subaltern Struggles and the Politics of Place: Remapping Resistance in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands” Donald Moore "problematizes the predominant ways in which resistance, subalternity, and their presumed social spaces have been mapped" by exploring the use of place in Zimbabwe's Eastern Highlands as it transitions from colonial control to independence. Offering a brief history of this space, Moore examines how the Kaerezians’ use of and right to this space is influenced by British colonial powers and ranchers, the rise of African nationalism, and “tribal” chieftainship’s fight for recognition and authority. Through his ethnographic examples, Moore demonstrates how place is not passive, but rather is a fluid entity constantly made through historical, political, and cultural struggle. By arguing that "agency produces locality and identity through a complex cultural politics of place" he calls for more awareness to space and the politics of place.
Moore’s essay offers a succinct introduction to the South Asian Subaltern Studies collective. The essay explores the overlaps and disagreements on resistance as understood by Gramsci, Agrarian Studies, and Subaltern Studies. Through this comparison Moore identifies a lack of attention to the politics of place in studies of resistance and questions the idea of the “autonomous domain” of resistance. He also declares subalternity as “relational and dynamic, rather than absolute and essential.”