Professor Blair Rutherford of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology is the co-winner of the Canadian Association of African Studies’ Joel Gregory Prize for the best social sciences or humanities book in African Studies written by a Canadian or someone linked to a Canadian institution in 2016 and 2017 for his book Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe: The Ground of Politics (2017, Indiana UP). He follows the success of his Carleton colleague Professor Susanne Klausen, both of whom are cross-appointed to the Institute of African Studies, who won the Joel Gregory Prize in 2016.
Farm Labor Struggles in Zimbabwe examines the unequal social and power relations shaping the lives, livelihoods, and struggles of some of the farm workers during an extremely momentous period in Zimbabwean history. In the early twenty-first century, white-owned farms in Zimbabwe were subject to large-scale occupations by black Zimbabweans in an increasingly violent struggle between national electoral politics, land reform, and contestations over democracy. Were the black occupiers being freed from racist bondage as cheap laborers by the state-supported massive land redistribution, or were they victims of state violence who had been denied access to their homes, social services, and jobs?
Blair Rutherford’s analysis is anchored in the time he spent on a horticultural farm just east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, that was embroiled in a remarkable farm worker struggle that started in 1998 and carried on during the beginning of the tumult of extensive political violence that emerged in early 2000. Rutherford complicates analyses of this period by showing that there was far more in play than political oppression by a corrupt and authoritarian regime and a movement to rectify racial and colonial land imbalances, as dominant narratives would have it. Instead, he reveals farm worker livelihoods, access to land, gendered violence, and conflicting promises of rights and sovereignty played a more important role in the political economy of citizenship and labor than had been imagined.
Congratulations to Professor Blair Rutherford!