Imperial and Post-Colonial Identities:Zimbabwean Communities in Britain




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This comparative study of Zimbabwean immigrants in Britain illustrates why they should not be viewed as reified communities with fixed essence, but as a product of ethno-racial identities and prejudices developed and nurtured during the phases of Zimbabwe’s history. Through an analysis of personal interviews, participant observation, and secondary and primary sources, the thesis identifies and engages historical experiences which had been instrumental in not only constructing relations between Zimbabwean immigrant communities, but also their economic and social integration processes. The quest to recognise historic legacies on Zimbabwean immigrants’ interactions and integration processes necessitated the first thematic chapter to engage the construction of ethno-racial identities in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phases of Zimbabwe’s history.

With contemporary literature on the Zimbabwean communities in Britain tending to create perceptions that Zimbabwean immigrants are a monolithic community of Blacks, the thesis’ examination of inter-community relations between Blacks, Whites, Coloureds and Asians unveils Zimbabwean immigrants fragmented by historic racial and ethnic allegiances and prejudices. Examining education and employment as economic integration indicators has also facilitated the identification of historical experiences that have been influential in determining economic integration patterns of each Zimbabwean community. Intermarriage, language, religion and relations with the indigenous population were critically engaged to gauge the influence of historical socialisation on Zimbabwean communities’ interaction with Britain’s social structures.

While it is undeniable that colonial Zimbabwe was beset with a series of political and economic policies which set in motion salient racist discourses that inevitably facilitated the construction of racially divided diaspora communities, the thesis also unveils a Black diaspora community imbued with historic communal tensions and prejudices. By focusing on Black Zimbabwean immigrants, the thesis will not only be acknowledging an increase of Sub-Saharan Africans in Britain, but also offers an alternative perspective on Black British History by moving away from the traditional areas of study such as eighteenth century slavery and post-1945 African-Caribbean migration. Exploring the dynamics of diaspora relations of the Shona and the Ndebele will expose how both the Nationalist Movement and the post-colonial government failed to implement nation building initiatives needed to unite Africans that had been polarised along ethnic lines. Black Zimbabweans therefore migrated as products of unresolved ethnic conflicts that had been developed and nurtured throughout the phases of Zimbabwe’s history. In the absence of shared historic socio-economic or cultural commonalities within the Black community and between the Zimbabwean diaspora communities demarcated by race, the thesis will be tackling the key question: are Zimbabweans in Britain an imagined community?



Migration, Immigrants, Post-colonial, Colonial, Diaspora, Zimbabweans



Research Institute