Theses Doctoral

The Goffal Speaks: Coloured Ideology and the Perpetuation of a Category in Postcolonial Zimbabwe

Nims, Kelly

Significant changes for the Coloured community have occurred and continue to occur as a result of an ever-changing political landscape in Zimbabwe. These changes reveal a group consciousness or ideology that often translates into daily practices of methods of inclusion and exclusion based on ethnic affiliation and racial organization. Many Coloureds have historically denied the reality of the boundaries that have separated them from whites or Europeans, and more recently, have reinforced the boundaries that have separated them from black Africans. Zimbabwe at Independence was the poster child for progress and change on the African continent. It was a place where, "the wrongs of the past [would] stand forgiven and forgotten... [and] oppression and racism were inequalities that [would] never find scope in the political and social system." Yet thirty years later, amid growing disillusionment over promises of a unified Zimbabwe, a destitute economy, and the perpetuation of racial inequality and oppression, there is an effort among Coloureds themselves to reify the Coloured category.

The categorization of people tends to develop in the course of specific histories of particular places. Local nuances color this. In Southern Africa, following the victory of the South African National Party (NP) in 1948, the term "community" was used as a euphemism for racial exclusion. Official categories that were clearly racial were commonly designated "communities": the Indian community, the Coloured community, the white community, and the black community. The NP relied heavily on the idea on distinct peoples bound together by blood and culture and in this context the language of community slid easily into a rhetoric justifying separate development for separate communities (Crehan, 2002). In the anti-apartheid era, opposition to the State often assumed the form of struggles fought out in the name of a particular community. It is here yet again, in the postcolonial context that we witness Coloured struggles around notions of belonging, nationality and citizenship.

Why and how have Coloureds or mixed race people in Zimbabwe sought to reclaim, or perpetuate their historic place (category) within the colonial racial hierarchy postcolonially in an ever-changing political landscape? This dissertation examines the ideology of Coloured peoples and the perpetuation and maintenance of the category Coloured in post-colonial Zimbabwe. The framework used here is from a socio-historical perspective, considering the political history of colonial settler policy in Zimbabwe, its subsequent racial ideology, and its effects on the social reality of the Coloured or mixed race population today. Here the conceptualization of race is restricted to settler societies and is not meant to be addressed on a global scale, as the term Coloured in this sense is in and of itself a Southern African phenomenon. This study relies on ethnographic data collected intermittently for approximately twenty-two months between May 2004 and May 2008 in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe, in particular, in the city of Bulawayo.

Additional ethnographic data was also collected in Cape Town, South Africa in the winter of 2009. Several methods were used in collecting data for this project: household surveys, genealogies, semi-structured and unstructured interviews, participant observation and snowball methodology. This study reveals the historical fluctuations in the meaning of the Coloured category and its overall genealogy to demonstrate that race was a paramount paradigm of identity in Rhodesia and despite changes in heads of state, ideologies, social practices and meanings that define identity, it continues to remain paramount in Zimbabwe today. Further, I argue that Coloureds themselves are major perpetuators of racial difference in the post-colonial context and value Coloured identity above either a national Zimbabwean identity or a continental African identity. The reason for this is that Coloureds hold on to the ideological value of their legal and social status of the past. By examining the Coloured experience within race and space in Bulawayo, this dissertation demonstrates how Coloureds maintain and enforce the familiar boundaries of their community in the post-colonial context via residential, social and cultural enclaves. Given the struggle for "place" in terms of nationalism--socially and economically in post-colonial Zimbabwe-- that is revealed through a study of popular discourse on race and political change in Zimbabwe, one questions whether Coloureds could ever or would ever want to become African.


  • thumnail for Nims_columbia_0054D_11325.pdf Nims_columbia_0054D_11325.pdf application/pdf 3.88 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Anthropology
Thesis Advisors
Bond, George C.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 30, 2013