Many Terence Rangers

If you studied history in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and 1990s, you could not avoid the influence of Terence Ranger, especially in making sense of nationalism.

Ranger (left) and the most prominent liberation leaders, Joshua Nkomo (center with book) and Robert Mugabe (with newspaper under his arm), in the late 1960s. Image: David Wiley/African Studies Center/Michigan State University .

This is not an obituary of Terence Ranger; I am not qualified to write it. Nor is this a journal article; there are already a good number and there will be many—and much better. This commentary is just what it professes: a personal reflection on the Terence Ranger who matters to some of us as Zimbabweans and Zimbabwean scholars writing a Zimbabwean story. In that narrative one cannot avoid a posthumous conversation with Ranger the person and Ranger the author, humanist, and teacher.

There is not one but many Terence Rangers. Hence the one I reflect on is only confined to the politics of knowledge production his work participated in, as seen from personal perspectives of a male Zimbabwean scholar. They are neither the only ones, nor the last. The most formative years of my remarks relate to the period of the 1990s-2000s in an important period in the University of Zimbabwe’s History Department, caught between colonial Rhodesian legacies and students’ demands for decolonizing the meaning and practice of History. Of what relevance was a history that was merely a study of the past, with no career benefit outside secondary school teaching or, at most, having to go all the way to PhD and become a university lecturer? Could history be more?

Personal Reflections

I knew T.O. Ranger before I met him. In the 1980s, anyone taking a history class in Zimbabwe’s postwar secondary schools could not avoid him. His book, Revolt in Southern Rhodesia, and Martin and Johnson’s The Struggle for Zimbabwe, were required reading. Granted—the Ordinary Level and Advanced Level History syllabi followed prescribed, catch-all textbooks. However, if you wanted to pass and go to university, to do law, instead of languishing in the “arts subjects” and “end up a teacher in Mudzi or Binga,” you had to read extra. In those days that meant reading Revolt.

I first met Ranger in person as a History honors student at the University of Zimbabwe in 1994 thereabouts. At the time I was a supervisee of the late David Norman Beach. Ranger was good buddies with Ngwabi Bhebe. It was during the time when they were organizing and coordinating the conference that would usher in the publication of two edited volumes, Society in Zimbabwe’s Liberation War, and Soldiers in Zimbabwe’s Liberation War, arguably the most ambitious project to involve actual guerrillas in writing their own history. Regrettably, of course, the ordinary people came to the conversation as the subject matter, not participants in the Harare indaba itself or authors as co-authors. It is part and parcel of the Western methods of producing an elitist national narrative of great men through formal(ized) institutions, disciplines, and academicians that excluded what the educated elites derisively now refer to as “uneducated village pumpkins.”

As honors and masters students of the History Department in the 1990s, we also always wondered about the territorialization of History and who got to research what. Ranger was the colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe professor who was a prolific publisher visiting here and there from Oxford. We found it curious that he focused on the ‘Shona,’ as if the Ndebele, Tshangana, Hlengwe, Venda, Tonga, Nanzva and so on had no history. Ray Roberts was the postcolonial Zimbabwe professor, who does not seem to have published much. Chengetai Zvobgo was the church history go-to, while Ngwabi Bhebe was seized with Ndebele history. It was a very territorialized discourse from which we are yet to recover not only as intellectuals, but also as a country studied on the basis of ethnicity. Ranger participated in this politics of ethnicized territorialization along with his contemporaries. The question for us now: Do we still need that or are we better off reinventing—even decolonializing—the meaning, practices, and ends of history?

Also bothersome was the very modular tradition of teaching history in the History Department. ‘History of Africa to 1800’ this, ‘History of Central Africa’ that, not calibrated to address any important theoretical questions. This empirical approach, I would find as I traveled wider, was a product of the British tradition, exported to us through colonialism, and slavishly upheld after the end of colonialism—at least politically, but never mentally. It was a rigid studying of the past that sterilized it of any relevance to what I was studying, who I am, and who I want to be, not the singular “I” but “I” as the “we” called “the nation.” History was, as given to us, the study of the past. With Beach, the archives were history; the public secret among us students was that he moved around with the National Archives of Zimbabwe catalogue in his famous brown leather duffel bag. From Ranger, the lesson perhaps is: What’s the point of writing a Zimbabwean history that is more relevant to academia than to the ordinary people? To have a larger than life international name, and yet the history one writes doesn’t ask or address tough questions relevant to the people, to Zimbabwe’s needs. Is this a case of mobilizing Zimbabwe as fodder for intellection, to show Zimbabwe’s past and yet not point the way forward?

Ranger’s writing later seemed to veer more to address an Africanist audience enchanted by his concept of invention of tradition rather than what would have been more useful to Zimbabwe. Namely, a usable past that did not end with using pre-colonial histories to galvanize the armed struggle against dictatorship by a white colonial minority, but also that deep past and the struggle for self-liberation as solid platforms for engineering a robustly democratic, economically prosperous, and all-inclusive post-Rhodesian nation. As far as I remember, those discussions took place indeed, but outside the History Department or the “proper” historical narratives Ranger, Beach, and others were writing—in African Languages, Literature, Law, International Relations, Social Anthropology, and Business, and even Economic History, where the most exciting discussions ended up happening.

We could sense the sharp difference between Ranger and Beach profoundly in their interactions during the History Seminar Series—or should I say their lack of interaction and what we as History students sensed as mutual hostility to each other. Upon researching further in the archives, it did not take long to find that the two men were at opposite sides of the struggle for self-liberation. Up until 1994, and despite having read Peasant Consciousness (1985) and later Norma Kriger’s Zimbabwe’s Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices, and not liking both because they fed a narrative of excluding non-Shona voices on the independence struggle, I had assumed that the  dissent between Beach and Ranger was purely intellectual.

To cut a long story—I discovered that Ranger’s sympathies lay with the nationalists, and he did get photographed with his head bedecked with animal-skin regalia and all. He was also subsequently deportated alongside other white liberal scholars like Giovanni Arrighi and John Reed in one of the most politically explosive atmospheres at the University College of Rhodesia (now University of Zimbabwe) in 1963. This was the time of Zhii, the year Ndabaningi Sithole, Robert Mugabe, Enos Nkala, Leopold Takawira, and others split from ZAPU to form ZANU, triggering violence pitting the two parties as much against each other as against the state itself. One year later, in 1964, the entire leadership of these two organizations inside the country were arrested and detained for the next decade. In 1965, the white settlers of Rhodesia announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Britain and refused to hand over power to Africans. Ranger might have sympathized with the nationalist cause but I am not sure he supported the turn to taking up arms as a self-liberation option. He was comfortable with a non-violent option yes, but when it comes to armed struggle I don’t think Ranger was a Basil Davidson. The most we can credit him for is his sympathies for African independence.

The paths of choices that Ranger and Beach took would, seen from our perspectives as students simply deploying the historical analysis they had taught us, determine the palpable hostilities we observed between them. Ranger would make his way to the University of Manchester and then University of Dar es Salaam, two hives of progressive scholarship at the time. The ‘Manchester School’ and the ‘Dar es Salaam School’ are our link between subaltern studies (India), dependency theory (the Caribbean and South America), and Pan-Africanist studies of Africa. The key figures in Manchester supervised or interacted with students central to these networks. Ranger was a not-insignificant part of that “scholarship informed by political commitment” as Isaacman (2003) nicely puts it. Personally, I think there is an urgent need for the surviving members of that ‘Dar es Salaam School’ and younger African scholars to have a conversation because Tanzania was this intellectual hub at the same time as it was also the gateway of Southern African liberation movements to Cuba, the Soviet Union, China, Korea, and Africa at large. I raise this to say frequenting the Dar circle places Ranger in what was the progressive circle of self-liberation and postcolonial self-determination.

Meanwhile David Norman Beach was employed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (formally the Native Affairs Department) to systematically document and understand ‘the natives’ in order for Ian Smith to perfect the machinery of racist oppression even more. Around 1994, when I was still under Ray Roberts’ supervision, there began a whispering campaign on the subject of racism in the way Roberts and Beach were teaching and supervising students. One of the major problems was why the two of them should continue to supervise students and teach history in the sterilized, ‘study of the past,’ hagiographic way they did as if history was not a usable past. In fact, as a student activist during the turbulent period when the IMF prevailed upon government to privatize the cafeteria, university accommodation, and other key tertiary education support under the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), Beach took a very dim view of any student participating in demonstrations. “You have a bright future,” he would say. “You will throw it away if you engage in university politics.” Underneath that threat, one could read as a student not only that the university would expel you, but that you might actually be failed by your professor, that historians should not be politically committed to finding solutions to problems bedeviling the society within which they live.

The sterility of History was in sharp contrast to developments in African Languages and Literature. True—there were occasional rumblings of discontent between faculty that felt colonialism was long gone and others who were seen as still living within it. The point of tension was a black intelligentsia returning from abroad to build their country through reclaiming the intellectual direction and space of pedagogy, only to run into what they saw as an intransigent “Rhodesian” cabal in the form of Beach, Roberts, and their allies in the other departments. The late Solomon Mutswairo in particular was never shy of calling out what he saw as racist dogma that refused to permit the admissibility of evidence or sources that best captured and expressed African thought and practices. He did not see why History—better yet “fact”—should only be defined on the basis of documents in the National Archives or Portuguese archives (Beach’s favorite) written after all by biased Europeans. This was also another point of disagreement with Ranger, who placed immense weight on African voices and oral sources. I remember Beach talking down Mutswairo to ‘stick to poetry’ and leave history to historians, when the former was presenting a paper on the ancestral spirit Nehanda’s medium Charwe, whom he stripped to a mere mortal woman “unjustly accused.” Beach had this cruel disregard for African spiritually that was shockingly arrogant sometimes; he would, of course, say it’s the dispassionate (albeit quite Rhodesian) view a historian ought to have to establish and adjudicate the facts. The exact opposite of Ranger, one would say.

Beach’s life was ended too soon by a brain tumor. Ray Roberts, by contrast, had left much earlier, in 1994 if my memory is correct. He had been billed to be my supervisor since my dissertation was focusing on the construction of the Kariba hydro-electric dam. I remember the day he summoned me into his office, to inform me that Beach would take over as my honors thesis supervisor. He was very bitter at what he perceived as a lack of appreciation among the all-black Masters students he had dedicated so much of his time and energy to train, only for them to label him a racist. What could I say as a supervisee? I just stared at him blankly, waiting for a knock on the door to rescue me. Occasionally, after he had left the department, he would pop in to check on his stockpile of the Rhodesian History (later Zimbabwean History) journal that he claimed as his personal property—relics from the Rhodesian era, piled one after another and in boxes in its editor’s office. The reason for his departure was his alleged racism in the treatment of subject matter concerning the struggle for self-liberation. He and Beach never hid their discomfiture and downright hatred of not just ZANU (PF) but the whole project of self-liberation. Why, they were on the other side! No wonder, Ranger might be accused of anything else. Racism? Never!

What still strikes me is how the University of Zimbabwe was left with Roberts and Beach to preside over how the ‘History of Zimbabwe’ syllabus that was supposed to be so crucial to the rebuilding of a memory and self-esteem shattered by colonialism was to be created and taught. Beach in particular, because the field manual of the Rhodesian Army G-Branch, entitled Soldiers Book of Shona Customs issued on January 1, 1975, was modeled on the historical and cultural knowledge gathered by and from the Ministry of Internal Affairs in which Beach was a senior scholarly figure. With Ngwabi Bhebe’s subsequent departure to the newly formed Midlands State University, Beach remained a key figure in the History Department until his death in 1998. Politically, the pendulum had already swung; but in terms of History and how it was taught, nothing changed. The most accomplished scholars were not in History itself but its Archaeology sub-unit, where Gilbert Pwiti was now dean of the faculty of arts and humanities, and Innocent Pikirayi in charge of Archaeology, and History Department Chair. If there is one thing they will reflect on, it is the failure to decolonialize the meaning, practice and ends of History, to re-define it to address our postcolonial needs, rather than getting stuck in with dogma.

We can fault Ranger for the direction post-independent Zimbabwean history took for other things, but I don’t think dispassionate or sterile History is one of those. I witnessed that difference in 2000 when I taught the ‘Aspects of Central African History’ course with him. He was on one of his many visiting professorships from Oxford, and Innocent Pikirayi felt I needed someone to mentor me as a teacher and to inspire me to publish (and those who know Pikirayi and Ranger well will testify to their constant encouragement of students and junior scholars to publish). The sense of commitment to a usable past, to inspire students to not see history as something so dispassionate but in every sense their own story, was obvious from Day 1. I can’t help but contrast it with Beach’s “hands-free,” dispassionate amassing of one oral tradition after another, and stringing them into a dense, unintelligible mass of the sort one finds in A Zimbabwean Past. Where Beach reveled in the mastery of dates and catalogue numbers of specific files where the bones were buried in the national archives, Ranger wanted us to give students a sense that, as he put it, “History Matters.” Teaching with him convinced me—both as a critique and an appreciation of his perspective—that being a historian did not mean digging up graves to disturb the dead resting in peace just for the sake of writing an erudite narrative, but to recover for oneself an identity, history, and personhood lost to me through the erasure or discoloration of the ancestors’ contributions to my current station in life. I wanted to be a historian who critically engaged with the present and future, to marshall history to the service of the present situation, not of elites but ordinary people. In a sense I felt Ranger had lost that touch since Revolt was published.

Even as visiting professor from Oxford, Ranger was always present and loved in the History Department. The joke was always on him that he did not understand the definition of a “valedictory lecture.” He delivered too many of them that we lost count. “Just come any time Terry, and never use the word valedictory,” we would chide him. “You have a particularly bad memory on how many of these valedictories you’ve held.” That was in 2000. Long into the sunset of his life, Ranger was still writing and talking, with his customary touch of personalized narrative that critics say is narcissistic, while others will say represents the inextricability of Ranger the author and Ranger the person. This conflation of writing and persona that is a consequence of being a public intellectual is most profound in his most talked about essay on “Patriotic History,” which he presented in the time we were co-teaching “Aspects.” The lecture theater was packed, the questions kept coming.

Ranger came at a time when the History and Economic History Departments were beginning to enter what Walter Mignolo calls a “decolonial’ state in terms of the faculty. A whole group of us, training or trained abroad and within the department, had now returned to honor our “bonded” contracts. The likes of Sibongile Mhlaba, Josephine Nhongo-Simbanegavi, Nhamo Samasuwo, Godfrey Ncube, James Muzondidya, Munyaradzi Mushonga, Mhoze Chikowero, Tapiwa Zimudzi, Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Gerald Mazarire, Government Phiri, Annie Chipembere, Ezra Chitando, Mickias Musiyiwa—the atmosphere was beginning to be exciting. Then the political and economic implosion took over, space for such engagement shrank, and a great dispersal of this immense pool began. It was also a time when we were beginning to be less enthralled by Ranger and become more critical of his discourse. For some of us, the quest for a usable past, and the need to counter patriotic history that monopolized the struggle for self-liberation in the hands of the political elite at the expense of everyone else—including the guerrillas who fought with the ordinary people on the ground—seemed welcome. It was the yardstick with which the contributions of the Zimbabwean Ranger would be measured.


To restate—by the time that Terence Ranger penned his important works on the uses and abuses of history, some of us were already wondering and even asked him, during this valedictory presentation on “Patriotic History,” why he had remained silent all along while Matabeleland was burning? While erstwhile liberation war comrades like Joshua Nkomo and Edgar Tekere, the demobilized war veterans from ZIPRA and ZANLA, and the povo were being sidelined in the narrative and enjoyment of the fruits of the Zimbabwean struggle for self-liberation? Had he not, by his silence and writing on the ‘Shona,’ contributed to the patriotic history he now spoke against? Why did he continue to write about ‘Shona’ peasant consciousness and what ZANU (PF) alone had done in the liberation struggle, even as Joshua Nkomo, his comrades-in-arms, had to flee a country he gave his life to liberate dressed like an old woman? Even when the Willowgate scandal was torching the country and the Leadership Code was being turned into toilet paper? Where was his conscience—in Zimbabwe or in Britain? Whatever he did in private we were not privy to.

In that sense, there seemed to me no way that Ranger could insulate himself from being tied to complicity in doing what Amílcar Cabral had warned fellow revolutionaries against in 1972: “Tell no lies and claim no easy victories.” Then again, Cabral died before he had tasted power; we will never know if he would have ended up the way of others who became president. That also applies to Chris Hani, Steve Biko, or Josiah Tongogara. Yet a conversation warning popular liberation icons against overstaying and becoming stale in power and holding them to account based on the revolutionary values of anti-colonial struggle would have lent more credibility to his critique of patriotic history.

I think the Ranger most relevant to us as Zimbabweans and Zimbabwean scholars got side-tracked. In 1976 he had signaled a brilliant research agenda on “a usable past.” Unbeknownst to him, his struggle comrades-in-arms would cunningly use history to justify monopolizing a struggle that everyone had fought against the Smith regime. In hindsight, perhaps this is the danger Ranger intended to warn us against in Peasant Consciousness (1985). But he came across as seeking to portray the self-liberation struggle as having been fought by one party with support from one ethnic group that contributed without coercion to that party and guerrilla army’s efforts. Ranger thus opened up criticism that then scandalized the struggle for self-liberation as an orgy of violence and patriarchal oppression, which is how Zimbabwean critics have read Norma Kriger’s Zimbabwe’s Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices. A narrative that could have helped Zimbabwe was one that exposed the synergies between bottom-up innovations of the ordinary people against all odds and the guerrillas both in the rear bases and on the from in the fight against Smith, particular in a time when politicians had disgraced themselves and could no longer be trusted. Here I think of Mafuranhunzi Gumbo’s Guerrilla Snuff—a history of the struggle capturing ordinary people’s immense contributions in a genre of ‘popular history’ accessible to them.

Perhaps such a project of usable past might have moved even further to quickly cement in documentary film and other accessible accounts of the struggle that are historically inclusive to counter the monopoly of the struggle by academics, politicians, and one party at the expense of everyone else. In the specific case of ZAPU and ZIPRA, the question, methodologically, is not only whether that project might have been at all possible during Gukurahundi, the counter-insurgency operation that left an estimated 20,000 people (it could be more or less) dead, but also how? Some may be forgiven for reading Ranger’s much belated pivot to Matabeleland as coming from Jocelyn Alexander and JoAnn McGregor, co-authors of Violence and Memory (2002), whose longue durée sounds seems an attempt to compensate for the many years of scholarly neglect of western Zimbabwe bar the work of Bhebe and Pathisa Nyathi. The risks of making commentary on Matabeleland in a time of counter-insurgency operations was probably personally too much. Perhaps the old Ranger deported for his troubles by the Smith regime in 1963 had gone?

To the present I am not sure whether to read Ranger’s as an Africanist’s history (outsiders writing about Africa and Africans) or a Zimbabwean history. His Invention of Tradition piece, along with his indifference to Matabeleland until it was too late, give me pause. The comparisons withBasil Davidson or George Shepperson intrigue me; I cannot place him in that category. Yet, I don’t think he was one of those that study Africa because they are fascinated by Africa as subject matter, but who are genuinely driven by their conscience to understand Africa from the perspectives of Africans. However, there are those that either draw very close to the ruling elites for one reason or other, or choose to see, hear, or speak no evil. The question in Ranger’s case is when, not if or always, that Ranger chose to be silent or to speak up—and why.

Unlike Roberts and Beach—who stayed in Rhodesia—Ranger can be remembered for being ejected for his activities and sympathies towards nationalism. At the same time he can also be recognized as a victim of post-liberation euphoria, enthralled in the honeymoon to the extent that even when dissenters within the liberation movement began signaling its early signs of derailment, these committed intellectuals exhibited disbelief and downright indifference to those voices. Delirious with triumphal joy at the fall of the racist white regimes in Southern Africa, they declared missão cumprida and looked the other way as their liberation icons turned rogue on their own citizens in pursuit of personal power. We are post-that-generation, so our conscience in criticizing them is quite clear. Perhaps it is because we have the benefit of hindsight, and history has vindicated us, which is probably unfair. The ructions in ZANU (PF) at the moment, as erstwhile comrades turn on each other, vindicates us and shows the dangers of complicity in silence as the attrition from founding principles of the project of self-liberation unfolds. The erosion of values happens very slowly. It is sometimes even beneficial to those that don’t agree with deviation from principle but go along because they are “eating” or because they can come into Zimbabwe and do their research without restriction. It is only when they are affected directly that they raise their voices. At that point they sound like the lousiest hypocrites. One would think the best way to safeguard the gains of a just cause is to raise the level of vigilance against any pervasions to code Orange so that complacency of corruption does not settle in. Ironically, Ranger’s narratives, especially Peasant Consciousness, promoted a version of Zimbabwe whose construction excluded non-Shona. He can’t cry about patriotic history when since Revolt he authored it.

But what would I have expected Ranger to do? Let’s remind ourselves that, like Davidson, Ranger was not some ordinary British expatriate scholar writing Zimbabwean history. He had personal access to these politicians because he was close to many of them. And perhaps that’s a lesson to every one of us as intellectuals: how close can we get to politicians or elites in order to retain a space for critique between our standpoint and theirs? Perhaps he could have been more vocal early on and not left the Department of History to continue as a Ministry of Internal Affairs outpost without the Rhodesian state to report to. It is probably unfair; haven’t we all left? I expected him to say that it is wrong to treat a wartime comrade like a criminal for the purpose of personal political power. Perhaps I expected Ranger to engage the many exiled ZIPRA and ZAPU cadres to join him in documenting their history, seeing as the party and liberation army’s entire archive had been confiscated during Gukurahundi.

Intellectually the biggest problem is that we relied on Ranger so much to write our history that few blacks ever wrote any. Ranger is only a tip of a larger iceberg of Zimbabwe’s dependence on outsiders to tell its stories. How many black Zimbabweans are writing and publishing today? Any biography of Mugabe by a Zimbabwean? How many books do we have on Zimbabwe since independence by Zimbabweans? We have a system in the country where as a citizen I have to move heaven and earth to get archival documents on a self-liberation struggle in which we the people fought on the ground with makomuredhi (the comrades, as guerrillas were called), cooking for them, gathering intelligence for them, and them fighting and suffering with us. By contrast, if non-Zimbabweans from North America or Europe come in and ask, all doors will open. Some have even bragged to us about it; the next thing we see is all these national archives are digitized and subscription fees paid to access them, and the country gets nothing. If I as a Zimbabwean keen to write a narrative of our struggle as one of unbelievable bottom up-top down innovation, as a project wherein everyone participated in engineering a nation, so that our children and their forebears can draw inspiration from that just as every other great nation on earth does, it is in the national interest to avail to me as much material access as I require.

My point is that there is nothing wrong with outsiders coming to write about Zimbabwe or Africa. They should. Their questions are interesting, but there are not necessarily our questions as Zimbabweans. However, African governments have an obligation to let their academics write histories from the African perspective and should do whatever they can to promote it. Otherwise the tragedy is that entire syllabi will have only non-Zimbabwean authors, whose accounts answer to discourses and questions external to the national interest. We cannot subsist our children in universities and secondary schools on histories about us that are not for us by us, that are calibrated on the basis of questions important to the priorities and thematics of external discourses. As African scholars we can still enrich those external scholarly circles from deep with the registers emanating from conversations focused on our own African priorities. It is cry wolf if we accuse scholars coming from outside of ‘distorting our history’ when we as African governments and leaders do very little and even feel uncomfortable with the stories our own citizens tell.

To his credit, Terence Ranger stands with others in turning their institutions abroad into fecund spaces for training Zimbabwean doctoral students in History. Ranger was unique in one regard: it did not matter whether one was his student at Oxford. If the need was there, and one was committed enough, he would train you even if you were at UZ. I am not a student of Ranger, but the fantastic caliber of students he produced speaks for itself. Some are enamored to him and respond negatively to any critique of him as if it is on them. Some have taken long to break free of his “ethnicity” and “invention of tradition” to carve their own paths. But for some of them like Enocent Msindo, author of Ethnicity in Zimbabwe, that process had already begun with his robust questioning of his former supervisor’s twin paradigms. One day when if I am blessed with long a life as Ranger’s and all I see are just loyal disciples, I will be very sad. The litmus test, the homage his students can pay to Ranger, is to take their own scholarship in richly rewarding directions without fetter.

For those of us who are not Ranger’s students, the questioning had already begun long before, sometimes drawing acrimony from those of his ex-students who did not take kindly to a critique of him, who think they own him. Ranger himself is an institution; it’s impossible to own him. Indeed, a good scholar is known by the number of disagreements others will have on his or her work and politics. For that reason, Terence Osborne Ranger the mentor and teacher of many, the committed academic, and a British man with a strong passion for African self-liberation, will remain important to us as Zimbabwean scholars probably for posterity. The Zimbabwean Ranger is not the Africanist Ranger; the former is defined on the basis of writing the narratives that changed Zimbabweans’ life experiences for better or worse, the latter for his “invention of tradition” and other resonances with theory. The Ranger I sought to portray was a personal and Zimbabwean Ranger.

His passing creates a gap in the caucus on Zimbabwe studies. But it’s not a vacuum.

Further Reading

An unfinished project

Christian theology was appropriated to play an integral role in the justifying apartheid’s racist ideology. Black theologians resisted through a theology of the oppressed.

Writing while black

The film adaptation of Percival Everett’s novel ‘Erasure’ leaves little room to explore Black middle-class complicity in commodifying the traumas of Black working-class lives.

The Mogadishu analogy

In Gaza and Haiti, the specter of another Mogadishu is being raised to alert on-lookers and policymakers of unfolding tragedies. But we have to be careful when making comparisons.