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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles


  • You have to struggle for a right - Interview with Dr. Patricia McFadden
    Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa, Kubatana.net
    May 27, 2010

    View audio file details

    Patricia McFadden is a sociologist, activist, and scholar who has worked in the antiapartheid movement for over 20 years. She has taught at universities since 1976 and is the former director of the Feminist Studies Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. Source: http://learningpartnership.org

    The following are excerpts from her interview.

    What is distinctive about nationalism, and this is something that I have tried to do in my own thinking and teaching, is to show that nationalism is really an andro-centric ideology. It is crafted by men, it comes out of men's imaginaries and desires for power, and power that is situated in the State. The men, who really are the articulators of nationalism, have conceptualised it in ways that make it narrow and very historically specific. Nationalism of course can be used by the right wing as well as by people who want liberation from repression. So you have right-wing nationalists the extreme of which would be Hitler's Germany and Mussolini. Then you have nationalists who use the ideology to call for collective freedoms. The distinctiveness of African nationalism is that right across the continent it's used initially to mobilise people around notions of freedom, liberation, and independence. These are men who do it. So the women who participate in these struggles are not allowed to occupy the ideology, they're not allowed to re-craft the ideology. How is this done? By insisting that the narrative around nationalism is about particular icons, who articulate the ideology and the vision. You can look at any country in Africa and you see that it's the men, the old men, the Jomo Kenyatta's the Julius Nyerere's and the Sengo's, and the Nkrumah's. Most people, if they don't have a feminist understanding of power, of ideology, will just accept it and think that it's normal; and actually its articulated as normal for the men to be the ones who define politics. Politics is something that happens in the public where men are situated. And women are situated in the private, they're mothers, wives, daughters, domestic providers et cetera. So that if you look at the world, everywhere, women are largely confined into the private spheres their identities are crafted within the private. And nationalism is a public political ideology, which happens in the public where men are situated so it becomes a male ideology. So even when women participate in nationalist struggles, they're still considered secondary. Listen

    One of the things about feminism is that it is a resistance ideology. It is about resisting patriarchy. How do you do it? You do it by theorising patriarchy, explaining the history of patriarchy. What are its components, how does it work, and explaining this to women. With feminism, what we do is when we conceptualise our history as humans, when we retell the story of power and we are able to explain why women often collude with systems of patriarchy, because they have been excluded from power so they want to be a part of it to survive. Most women don't actually get power from men. They only survive in a society by colluding, because men do not share power. I don't write or do theory for men. I think that some men read my work and often they're upset. I'm really not interested in thinking with men. I think that they need to do a similar but different process around power, and I'm not going to leave my work as a feminist and work with men. Let them theorise power, let them unlearn the privilege. The same thing with racism. I really don't work with people on racism. I critique racism; but I'm not going to go and try and convince a white person that 'oh its ok, racism is something of the past' when their whiteness gives them access to institutionalised privilege. Whether it's about land, whether it's about a seat at the table in a restaurant or the queue, from the most mundane expressions of racial privilege to the deepest and most complex. Listen

    In the United States and in Europe, African societies are not perceived as having States. We have individuals, because they think of us as tribes. So the chief is the State. That's why they go on and on and on about Robert Mugabe instead of talking about the Zimbabwean state. Mugabe is not the State. For them to sell a project like ZIDERA for instance, they have to see Zimbabwe as a demonic individual, that's the only way that Americans can understand and support it. When you translate it into international relations and the propaganda which accompanies US interests in the world, you can see how powerful and effective for European and American populations it has been to vilify and demonise Robert Mugabe. Of course we need to make a critique of all the African leaders. But I totally disagree that our whole history can be summarised in the demonisation of one individual. So we don't have states, we don't have systems we don't have class struggles, it's just one individual who is a demon. Listen

    I think on one hand Constitutions have been very interesting instruments for Africans. They come out of the Westminster traditions and they are accompanied by a liberal discourse that argues that constitutions are legitimate instruments of representation for the people. So they often are imbued with capacities that they are not ale to deliver. [Constitutions] are these iconic structures, which are imbued with power that they never deliver, because at the end of the day they serve the state. But it's important to understand that they accompany a liberal paradigm, about equality and rights and entitlements. And we know in the 21st century the liberal is weaker and weaker and weaker, it can't deliver. Especially when capitalism is in huge crisis as it is now. It is less able to provide people with minimal entitlement let alone rights. So I think that in certain ways those who are in the state know how powerful the rhetoric of constitutionalism and constitutional protections is, and in crafting the new states and the new nations, constitutions are useful because they pull people together, they enable people to imagine themselves as having the same identity. Zimbabwe really needs a constitution, not because it's going to give the poor rights, but because it's like a salve, the healing balm after the fractures. It's a site where people can come together and collectively imagine themselves as one people. To have common identity, we need that so much in Africa. Constitutions are useful as extensions of nationalism as vehicles through which people can re-imagine themselves as members of a community of a state of a nation and we need it because of the wars and the crisis and everything. But they are deceptive because they appear as though they are giving people rights, but there are no instruments that can endow you with a right. You have to struggle for a right as a collective. You have to conceptualise it, you have to imagine it you have to engage with those who control the sites where your rights are located and then you can create the possibility for that right to be not only located in the state and then the state can protect it, but you'll also have to have access to it. Listen

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    Audio File

    • Nationalism and women
      Summary:
      Language: English
      Duration: 3min 05sec
      Date: May 27, 2010
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 2.83MB

    • Feminsim
      Summary:
      Language: English
      Duration: 1min 25sec
      Date: May 27, 2010
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 1.29MB

    • Demonising Robert Mugabe
      Summary:
      Language: English
      Duration: 1min 14sec
      Date: May 27, 2010
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 1.13MB

    • Constitution
      Summary:
      Language: English
      Duration: 3min 05sec
      Date: May 27, 2010
      File Type: MP3
      Size: 2.83MB

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