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Veterans, Masculinity, and Land Expropriation in Contemporary Zimbabwe and the Late Roman Republic: Towards a Global History

Bearbeitung: Dr. Obert Bernard Mlambo

In this study I explore veterans’ land expropriation movements in two disparate historical periods, namely, contemporary Zimbabwe and the period of the ‘client army’ of the late Roman Republic. I explore from a comparative perspective, how the Roman case provides a model for understanding modern Zimbabwean veterans’ land expropriations (2000-2008), and vice versa. I apply the comparative historical method to investigate episodes in which ‘heroic masculinity' and ‘militarism’ appear in a veterans context in order to create explanations that are valid beyond a single historical period and place. When making the expropriations, veterans in Zimbabwe engage in a certain degree of posturing, exploiting conventional images of power, that is, images of manly or military heroism and valour. These command fear and respect in society, and have an inordinate impact on socio-economic and political life. An even greater tragedy is the damage to democracy and the development of a stable civil society, since veterans never made a change towards peaceful bahaviour. I therefore investigate how heroic masculinity and warrior capabilities of veterans have resulted in phenomena of violence in present-day Zimbabwe, by exploring how masculinity and its various strategies of propaganda contribute to social disruption.

In pursuit of research goals, I seek a) to  develop the concept of masculinity as a tool of analysis for understanding post-colonial Zimbabwe’s land reform dilemmas. b) To understand the processes by which Zimbabwe’s War of Independence 1973-1980 has functioned as a site for the construction of a violent masculinity by veterans. c) To demonstrate that “masculinity” and “heroism” lead to hierarchies that operate outside, or in tandem with, the democratic constitution of Zimbabwe, and to social disruption.

This study is both conceptual and empirical, i.e based on data, but also theoretical, as it makes use of contemporary theories of gender and masculinity, and theories on the motives of organised violence and actions of mobs or groups of people (Kalyvas 2006 cf. Valentino 2004). In terms of methodology, I think about things 'from below' from the perspective of the veteran. I consider the veterans and their ideals of masculine virtue and/or revolutionary violence. I look for evidence of veterans taking things into their own hands, carrying out illegal occupations of land. This is where the comparative material from the Roman Republic offers the most potential, in providing a basis for thinking about what makes veterans tick, the extent to which they have their own agendas -- or, and the extent to which they are manipulated and internalize the agendas of their leaders.