Dube and Mudekunye
Greener Journal of Social Sciences Vol. 3 (3), pp. 145-155, March 2013
ISSN: 2276-7800 © 2011 GJSS
Manuscript Number: 020313425
Clearing the Skepticism: Social Movements at the University of Zimbabwe
Charles Dube and Jenet Mudekunye
Great Zimbabwe University
Corresponding Author’s Email: charliedoobs @ gmail.com
This research went beyond the anecdotal to the empirical vis-à-vis an analysis of identity politics and its meaning within a university context. Premising politics on a particular collective identity has often been perceived as the basis for dissociation, defeatism, exclusion, and separatism. This has resulted in a skeptical reception of groups that base their politics on a collective identity, be they movements based on feminism, general workers’ movements or students’ movements. Based on the case of Matabeleland Development Society (MDS), this study employed Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgy and Manuel Castells’ ‘Power of Identity Approaches’ to unearth the above assumptions that underlie the political critics of identity politics. The said organization is a social movement that was formed in 1992 at the University of Zimbabwe by, and for, students originating from Matabeleland and some parts of the Midlands Province. Matabeleland is a province in Zimbabwe, and the underpinning objective of the MDS, as stated in its Constitution, is to champion the socio-politico-economic development of their regions of origin. Members of the MDS base their politics on a collective ethnic identity that stems from their belonging to the Matabele ethnic group. Research findings in this treatise are based on in-depth unstructured personal interviews that were conducted among some selected members of the MDS through snowballing. The research also utilized documented evidence such as the MDS Constitution, which contains the history of the MDS. Findings from this study revealed that criticisms levelled against social movements have often missed their real nature. Presupposing politics on a collective identity is not synonymous with separatism. Neither is it an attempt to overemphasize difference. The practical significance of the treatise is in its original contribution to the field through the edition of the MDS case material, an arguably novel case inasmuch as research on social movements is concerned.
Key words: identity, social movements, separatism, ethnicity, politics
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