The Land Issue as Esssentially Postcolonial

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

There are many situations in which the very term postcolonial appears particularly limiting and even demeaning, as if too much in a culture were being defined by the intertwined historical facts of colonization and liberation. The land question in Zimbabwe is not one of them, since so many of the problems involved in that issue derive directly from the culture clashes involved in colonization of one people by another and the related fact that liberation from an colonizing power cannot turn back the clock, restoring now-vanished attitudes and social structures. Since the 1980 settlement that allowed the peaceful handing of power to the Black majority stipulated that the government would not appropriate any White-owned lands for a decade, nationalizing settler property did not occur, but, as contemporary commentary reveals, even if the government had all the country's land to redistribute, the question remains how to do so fairly and in an economically rational manner when the fact of colonization -- the impact of European notions of self, property, farming, nationhood, and the like -- has radically changed basic ideas of fairness and rationality.

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