Next in our series on ‘Belonging’, we hear from Shepherd Mutswiri, a PGR student in our network. Shepherd joined the University of Reading’s history department in January 2020, having completed an MSc in International Development and Development Economics at SOAS, London. His PhD research focuses on Zimbabwe’s decolonisation in which he challenges the master narrative. While Zimbabwean public discourse, as well as much of the scholarly debate, has been to celebrate the liberation war, Shepherd intends to complicate this understanding. Shepherd is exploring the relationship between nationalism and religion in the decolonisation process, and the important role women played in the years leading up to independence in 1980.
‘People don’t want to be tolerated, they want to be accepted’.
Shepherd was generous enough to spend time talking to Beth Rebisz on the theme of ‘Belonging’. In his research on the decolonisation process in Zimbabwe, belonging plays an important role in relation to nationalism. How do you bring people from different backgrounds together to form a nation? Shepherd also spoke of his own experience navigating UK academia, emphasising the impact citizenship can have on a sense of belonging. Where is home for a transient researcher?
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Shepherd Mutswiri in conversation with Beth Rebisz
On the 1st October 2020, The African and Gender History Research Seminar hosted Alice Mpofu-Coles a PGR student in our network. Alice’s paper, titled ‘Study Hard, Work Hard and Get Married’ – A Generational Gap in the Aspirations for Young Zimbabweans in the UK, was one of our best attended seminars of the year and was a testament to the important conversation she was sparking. During her paper, Alice explored the challenges young Zimbabweans face navigating education, employment, and relationships as part of a diasporic community in the UK. Alice reflected on her own positionality having arrived to the UK as a refugee. Alice wears many hats, as she explained in her seminar, she is a researcher, she is an activist, and she is a mother. At the core of her paper and at the core of the discussion which took place after was the question of belonging and how this impacts identity. This felt like a conversation that needed to go further.
Let’s spill the tea, or in Alice’s words, we need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Alice Mpofu-Coles was generous enough to spend time talking to Beth Rebisz on the theme of ‘Belonging’. Her research centres the experiences and narratives of young Zimbabweans in the UK. She explores the pressures and expectations young Zimbabweans must navigate as part of the ‘1.5 generation’. What does it mean to find a sense of belonging as part of a diasporic community? How does racism impact this? Alice spoke of her own experiences of navigating UK academia as a Black scholar. What does it mean to belong in a system where Black people face exclusion?
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‘Belonging’ – Alice Mpofu-Coles in Conversation with Beth Rebisz