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The Front Line Runs through Every Woman

The Front Line Runs through Every Woman: Women and Local Resistance in the Zimbabwean Liberation War

Series: African Issues
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    The Front Line Runs through Every Woman
    Book Description:

    A Zimbabwe-specific study, focusing on the lives of women in a small locale (Chiweshe) during the anti-colonial insurgency, this book is also a challenge to established and still current modes of thought and research orientations which over-simplify the complex realities women face in the full range of violent conflicts, both past and present. By contextualizing the voices of women of Chiweshe, not only is an important and under-developed aspect of Zimbabwean and African history revealed, but a new approach to comprehending the highly-tensioned lives of women in war is presented, which is characterized here as Gendered Localised Resistance. This is examined through the prism of life in the Protected Villages in Chiweshe experienced in everyday social relations, revolutionary roles, and food security. It traces how women forged strategies of survival and resistance in the middle of guerrilla warfare pitted between the forces of the state and the revolutionary resistance movements. The book can be read as a unique and richly detailed account of the lives of women during the Zimbabwe civil war and liberation struggle; as a wider argument about how researchers can approach and incorporate lived experience into accounts of larger dynamics (war/revolution); and as a substantial and important contribution to feminist historiography and writings on women and war. Eleanor O' Gorman is Senior Associate at the Gender Studies Centre and a Research Associate at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge; an independent consultant who has advised the UN, the UK Government (DFID and FCO), the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Commission, and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-992-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xi)
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  8. Introduction Women, War Voice & Agency
    (pp. 1-14)

    In October 2010 the United Nations celebrated the tenth anniversary of the landmark Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security.¹ This resolution finally acknowledged the impact of war on women across the world and set out the political imperative to protect women from targeted acts of violence and ensure the greater participation of women in all aspects of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. The global agenda for international peace and security had at last accepted the importance of gender in understanding violence and transforming the prospects for peace and security, or so it seemed. This framework of commitments...

  9. 1 Situating Women in Revolution Battlefront Myths & Homefront Lies
    (pp. 15-39)

    The drive to explore local understandings of revolution by women to uncover how they participate in and survive revolution arises from both feminist theoretical and Zimbabwe historical perspectives. The narrative of revolutionary transformation for women that has emerged from feminist theoretical debates requires a local focus on women’s experiences of revolutionary wars in order to uncover the nature and extent of rural women’s participation. Similarly, the narratives of participation found in the historiography of Zimbabwe’s war of liberation (1966–1980) suggest that the failings of explanation are not only confined to feminist theoretical debates but also mark historical accounts of...

  10. 2 Re-framing Women’s Revolutionary Lives Women, Gender & Local Resistance
    (pp. 40-54)

    Moving on from the notion of revolutionary resistance tied to a unified peasant or feminist consciousness, an alternative framework of Gendered Localised Resistance is developed in this chapter.¹ It involves rethinking revolutionary resistance to better understand rural women’s experiences of guerrilla war and shifts our understanding towards individualised and localised resistance by women as a major feature of women’s participation. Localised resistance is discussed in the light of James Scott’s (1985) work on ‘everyday forms of peasant resistance’ that highlights the personalised and class dimensions of consciousness and actions in the context of South Asia and the Green Revolution in...

  11. 3 Setting the Fieldwork Context Zimbabwe as Arena, Chiweshe as Locale
    (pp. 55-68)

    Zimbabwe has undergone great change since independence in 1980 with a worsening of the situation in terms of abject poverty, economic collapse and a crisis of governance and human rights marked by brutality and political violence. These trends are assessed in the Introduction and Conclusion of this book to reinforce the lessons from the liberation war period and the continuities of some of the struggles that rural women in particular face. What is telling is that the testimonies of the women of Chiweshe I gathered in 1993 already reflected a sense of disillusionment and resentment with government’s failure to deliver...

  12. 4 Women’s Perceptions of Revolutionary Participation Understandings of Agency & Consciousness
    (pp. 69-90)

    Mapping the context of revolutionary participation for women in Chiweshe and the parts they played in the liberation struggle begins here, with the discussion of how and why they became involved in an anticolonial war. A central theme emerges of overt revolutionary resistance and the dynamics and differences exhibited by women participating in such resistance.

    The first aspect of participation refers to women’s performance of guerrilla-defined roles; the types of participation required for the military effectiveness of the guerrilla war. These roles included the part played by women as fighters and providers of food. Yet an explanation of the gendered...

  13. 5 Living with & within Revolution Challenges to Unity & Community
    (pp. 91-122)

    This chapter addresses the impetus for survival by women caught up in revolutionary war. The underbelly of women’s experiences is found in their struggles for everyday survival and the strategies they devised to mitigate the most adverse effects of living through war. The struggles for survival along with the parameters of everyday social relations (with the District Assistants (DAs), the guerrillas, and their community) are key to understanding women’s participation and consciousness in the liberation war. The Protected Villages (PVs) transformed community space and relations and created the militarised context wherein the pervasive reach of state surveillance extended into the...

  14. 6 The Front Line Runs Through Every Woman Resistance & Survival by Women in Revolutionary War
    (pp. 123-146)

    The undercurrent of women’s position as being ‘caught in the middle’ finds its fullest articulation in this chapter. The previous chapter highlighted how important women were to the survival their households and communities throughout the war; it also highlighted the impact revolutionary resistance had on these efforts to live through war. The struggles for survival affected resistance by causing women to become both disaffected with the guerrillas and further angered by the colonial state. The illustration of these tensions culminates in this chapter when I address the Chiweshe women’s participation in revolution as food providers to the guerrillas. The interpretation...

  15. Conclusion Women’s Agency & Voice in War Reconsidered
    (pp. 147-158)

    This study of women in Chiweshe illuminates our understanding of women’s participation in revolutionary wars. My engagement with revolutionary resistance was grounded in the explanatory theses of peasant/guerrilla relations arising from the liberation war in Zimbabwe and in the bittersweet narrative of women’s participation and the transformation of gender relations through revolution that has emerged from feminist writings. I highlighted the limitations of these approaches by providing a full and critical account of women’s participation in, and experiences of, revolutionary struggle. My critique called for a gender analysis that explored the lives of women in revolution and the difference between...

  16. APPENDICES 1 Select Chronology of War
    (pp. 159-160)
  17. APPENDICES 2 Biographical Profiles
    (pp. 161-170)
    (pp. 171-186)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 187-192)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)