Dissertation Title: "Bush War: An Environmental History of Zimbabwe's Liberation"
Robby Zeinstra is a 2019-2020 Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellow and a sixth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History, specializing in environmental and southern African history. His dissertation, Bush War: An Environmental History of Zimbabwe’s Liberation War narrates the war period using oral histories from Zimbabwean peasants who participated in the war. Peasant memory of the war uniquely privileges extra-human cooperation, including with the animals of the forest, the patterns of rain, and the ancestors. And, peasants remember themselves as key actors in Rhodesia’s demise, not only as assistants to the ZANLA guerrillas with whom they often worked. Beyond collaboration with ZANLA, peasants co-constructed the modes of resistance, setting their sights on the enemies of peasant life – the neighboring symbols of white capital – and in the process making the land question a central feature of Zimbabwean nationalism. This study touches on religion, interspecies relationships, landscape, memory, and the formation of nationalism, and retells a moment of the war from the distinctive perspective of rural Zimbabweans.