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Title: Legal encounters : law, state and society in Zimbabwe, c1950-1990
Author: Karekwaivanane, George Hamandishe
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This study examines the role of law in the constitution and contestation of state power in African history. Using Zimbabwe as a case study, it analyses legal struggles between Africans and the state, and amongst Africans themselves between 1950 and 1990. In doing so it intervenes in a number of scholarly debates on the relationship between law, state power and agency in African history. Firstly, I examine the role of law in constituting state power by exploring the interplay between legitimation and coercion in long term perspective. Secondly, I interrogate legal centralism as an approach to understanding developments in the legal sphere in African history and make the case for legal pluralism as a more appropriate approach. I argue that during the period under study, Zimbabwe witnessed a process of evolving legal pluralism characterised by the mutual appropriation of forms, symbols and concepts between state law and the ‘customary law’. Thirdly, I contribute to the debate on African legal agency by demonstrating that its significance went beyond the utility of the law in specific social, economic and political struggles. I argue that it also gave expression to emergent political imaginaries, shifting ideas of personhood and alternative visions of the social and political order. Lastly, I argue that, by undertaking a historical examination of legal struggles, this study provides a useful foundation from which to analyse contemporary legal struggles in Zimbabwe and in Africa more generally. The findings presented here caution against being drawn in by the apparent novelty of contemporary legal struggles. In addition, they suggest the means by which human rights discourse in Africa might be reinvigorated.
Supervisor: Alexander, Jocelyn Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Africa ; History of Africa ; Socio-legal studies ; Zimbabwe ; law ; state ; history