Rights After Wrongs
Local Knowledge and Human Rights in Zimbabwe
Shannon Morreira


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: The Rise of Rights Talk in Zimbabwe
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces the use of human rights discourse in Zimbabwe, and the study of human rights in the anthropological literature. The chapter traces the political and economic conditions in Zimbabwe from pre-independence to the present, arguing that there is a varied history of uses of rights in Zimbabwe that are tied to a different series of political projects. The chapter argues that rights emerge as part of the project of modernity and, as such, carry a particular epistemological history.

1 'Panel-Beating the Law': Constitution Making in Zimbabwe
chapter abstract

This chapter examines the public dialogues and debates surrounding the writing of a new Zimbabwean Constitution that occurred in Zimbabwe in 2010. The example demonstrates how human and civil rights are open to (political and politicized) interpretation and contestation, both during the processes of fixing them via legal procedures and after they have been formally encoded. The finished versions of legal documents such as Constitutions and statutes emerge from and are enacted within fields of power. The Chapter argues that the global legal language of rights discourse that presents rights as inherent, universal, inalienable and indivisible is one that obscures the very real effects of power and politics in rights praxis; and that rights discourses are entangled within global political forms such as democracy, which use tropes such as freedom and dignity that reflect particular (historically constituted) ways of imagining politics and persons.

2 Justice in a Time of Impunity: Remaking Social Worlds after Political Violence
chapter abstract

This chapter examines how ideas of justice and restoration, on national and on more intimate scales, were envisioned in Harare. The chapter firstly explores the surfacing of the model of transitional justice in governmental and non-governmental interventions in Zimbabwe. It then considers two alternative models of social restoration as encountered in Harare: the justice of the ancestral spirit world; and a 'healing circle' model used by a local civic organization. The chapter uses the theoretical lens of entanglement to argue that although there is an insertion of global discourses of human rights into local ideas of justice and restoration, there is little movement of local ideas into global discourses. Knowledge about justice is thus constituted within uneven fields of power.

3 Producing Knowledge about Human Rights in Harare
chapter abstract

Despite globalization, with its increased mobility and flow of information along varied circuits, the processes of interconnection are not necessarily smooth. Human rights discourses follow (and constitute some of) these global circuits, and could be said to form one of the key ideologies of our time. This chapter examines the fractures of global circuits through an ethnographic exploration of the construction of human rights reports in Harare, and their mobilities as they leave Zimbabwe. Following a conceptual introduction, the chapter traces two rights-based texts from their origins in Zimbabwe through to their national and international dissemination.

4 Personhood and Rights among Zimbabwean Migrants in South Africa
chapter abstract

This chapter considers the use of law and ideas of human and civil rights by Zimbabweans living in, yet still seeking secure legal residence, in neighbouring South Africa. The chapter outlines South Africa's legal migration framework, and highlights some of the contradictions at play between human rights discourse and migration policy. The chapter shows that while interlocutors translated experiences of "suffering" into a language of human rights violations, the things that they considered a violation did not map easily onto the South African state's definition of a violation of human rights. Furthermore, it shows the disjuncture between Zimbabwean ideas of personhood/what it means to be a person, and the ideas of personhood that underlie human rights law.

Conclusion: The Situationality of Human Rights
chapter abstract

This chapter draws together the threads of the monograph to argue that human rights are social constructions that are used in complexly social environments. As such, they are always political. Pre-existing (and shifting) social categories, modes of thought, and political and moral systems are relevant to understanding the enactment of rights discourses.