Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe

The Ground of Politics

Blair Rutherford



In the early twentieth century, white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were subject to large-scale occupations by black urban dwellers in an increasingly violent struggle between national electoral politics, land reform, and contestations over democracy. Were the black occupiers being freed from racist bondage as cheap laborers by the state-supported massive land redistribution, or were they victims of state violence who had been denied access to their homes, social services, and jobs? Blair Rutherford examines the unequal social and power relations shaping the lives, livelihoods, and struggles of some of the farm workers during this momentous period in Zimbabwean history.


An explicit and well-argued critique of the polarized debate on contemporary Zimbabwe by providing an alternative understanding of the conflict in terms of electoral politics, pursuit of material livelihoods, and forms of belonging. ― Peter Gibbon


Blair Rutherford is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.