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Nationalist Historiography, Patriotic History and the History of the Nation: the Struggle over the past in Zimbabwe

Terence Ranger
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 30, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 215-234
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4133833
Page Count: 20
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Nationalist Historiography, Patriotic History and the History of the Nation: the Struggle over the past in Zimbabwe
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Abstract

Over the past two or three years there has emerged in Zimbabwe a sustained attempt by the Mugabe regime to propagate what is called 'patriotic history'. 'Patriotic history' is intended to proclaim the continuity of the Zimbabwean revolutionary tradition. It is an attempt to reach out to 'youth' over the heads of their parents and teachers, all of whom are said to have forgotten or betrayed revolutionary values. It repudiates academic historiography with its attempts to complicate and question. At the same time, it confronts Western 'bogus universalism' which it depicts as a denial of the concrete history of global oppression. 'Patriotic history' is propagated at many levels - on television and in the state-controlled press; in youth militia camps; in new school history courses and textbooks; in books written by cabinet ministers; in speeches by Robert Mugabe and in philosophical eulogies and glosses of those speeches by Zimbabwe's media controller, Tafataona Mahoso. It is a coherent but complex doctrine. This article explores the intellectual and practical implications of 'patriotic history '. It contrasts it with an older 'nationalist historiography ', a newer 'history of the nation ', and with attempts at the University of Zimbabwe to move on to pluralist analyses and multiple questions. The current historiographical debate is seen through the eyes, and in the light of the experience, of its author, a long-term practitioner of both nationalist historiography and the history of the Zimbabwean nation.

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