'Those who are not known, should be known by the country': patriotic history and the politics of recognition in southern Zimbabwe
Since the early 2000s, scholars have criticised how Zimbabwe's ruling party has 'distorted' history to suit its political purposes through its rhetoric of 'patriotic history'. There remains a lacuna of studies focusing on what purchase 'patriotic history' has had in specific contexts, and what alternative commemorations it has sometimes afforded. Examining efforts in early 2010s by war veterans, relatives and survivors to monumentalise two wartime massacres sites in southern Zimbabwe, this paper explores the localised politics of recognition through which 'patriotic history' gained local saliency. Based on interviews at Kamungoma and Hurodzavasikana massacre sites in Gutu district, we examine how Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front's historiographical project re-fuelled local efforts to remake communities and landscapes marked by violence and death. What is striking at Kamungoma and Hurodzavasikana is the relative absence of unhappy spirits or problematic human remains which have dominated war veteran-led exhumations and National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe's 'liberation heritage' programme elsewhere in Zimbabwe. Although hasty burials, landscapes scarred by violence and unsettled by the mingling substances of bodies and soil are part of the story here, at these Gutu sites the metonymy of past violence is more affective in the scarred bodies of survivors, in the failed futures of youth and kin lost, and of recognition delayed or denied.