Suffering for Territory

Moore, Donald. 2005. Suffering for Territory: Race, Place, and Power in Zimbabwe. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

This is a hard book to summarize because of the intricacy of the argument, its theoretical architectures, and its deep ethnographic empirics—they are all intricately woven together. Donald S. Moore’s keyword in this book is “entanglements” and there’s no better word that sums up many of this book’s key insights. The intricacies of these entanglements is largely dependent on the various scales—broadly construed—that are ensnarled and knotted in this place of eastern Zimbabwe known as the Kaerezi (which until further notice, I like pronouncing it as CAH-RAY-ZEE, as in “damn, you crazy”).

Here’s what I mean: Moore shows how the Kaerezi as a territory and place are utterly entangled and, in fact, probably constituted by the following complex and multiple imbrications:


‘Epochs’ Temporalities Spaces Discourses/Forces Power























The reason I’m calling this a scalar analysis is not because of the way that he shows how local-global are always implicated in and by each other—though, he does do that quite resoundingly and brilliantly. What I’m trying to get at is the connections he makes within a larger assemblage, and I guess we can identify that assemblage as nyika (territory). The reason I like thinking about what he accomplishes in terms of scale is because I think what’s being woven together is a story about the way a space at definite point in time continues to be made, fought over, articulated through its living connections to other space, other times, other events, other people, other struggles.

Although I appreciate, in this same sense, his use of sedimentation as a conceptual metaphor, the idea of one thing piled on top of another does not, I think, do justice to the complex and multivalent connections he’s make. Admittedly, neither does scale. But I get the point. One of the last lines of the book sums it up nicely: “Striated with shifting sediments and practices, Kaerezi’s postcolonial landscape remains entangled all the way down” (309).

Putting aside the knotty issue of how (or if) we should distinguish place and territory in his analysis, Moore’s goal is to show how and why these entanglements are constantly being articulated and reconfigured through a variety of discourses and practices that are always and already imbued with power relations. Indeed, one of his main points is that there are no self-sovereign subjects. Despite the sophisticated conceptual universe he draws from—Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Gramsci, Hall, Lefebvre, Marx, Williams, etc (the list could go on)—his primary analytic for drawing these connections revolves around the triad in motion of sovereignty-discipline-government—in a word, governmentality. But rather than seeing governmentality as a singular rationality (logic even) of rule—a deficiency he chalks up to a lack of ethnographic commitment in governmentality studies and a hegemony of textualism (especially the state as archive)—he uses it to “probe how situated sovereignties, disciplinary practices, and governmental projects shape power relations in Zimbabwe” (312).

Moore draws on Foucault’s version of governmentality that stresses “shifting alignments and contingent constellations of power rather than a single ruling rationality” (7). This is important because Moore is decidedly not tracing the movement of one rationality to another in different regimes of government; instead, his main concern is how government is exercised (or attempted) via dense networks of articulations in ways that sometimes works better than others manage to enlist people into complicity with their own government. But Moore highlights how this is an utterly contingent process in which there are “no guarantees”; resistances and unexpected events are built into the process, meaning that rule and power are an ever-shifting ensemble of relations and forces. “Development,” “anti-colonial struggle,” “nationalism” are only some of the ways in which Moore examines the contingencies and articulations that are available to both rulers and ruled that are caught in the meshes of power in post-Colonial Zimbabwe; these discourses can and have been wielded to diametrically different ends.

One of my favorite discussions in the book relying on this Foucaultian framework is the discussion of sovereignty: “Left largely uncharteed in such accounts is the production of distinctive relations among sovereignty and space—not new “sovereign spaces” but, rather specific articulations of multiple forms of sovereignty and hybrid spatialities that coexist in the same geographical territory. If the analytic of governmentality displaces the state as a privileged container of power, so also it denaturalizes sovereignty as the possession of states. Sovereignty’s cultural practices pivot on the production of scale, subjection, and territory” (223). I’m totally on board with this idea especially considering Lefebvre’s idea of superimposition and interpenetration of social spaces. And on the page before, Moore states: “No single sovereign mapped absolute authority to territory or populace. Each mode of rule targeted relations between people and place, subjects and territory. These relational regimes of power remain crucial to understanding not only Tangwena territoriality, but also modes of subjection” (220).

Those two couplets (people-place and subjects-territory) raise again the question of how he thinks about these two terms: place and territory. He contrasts his own notion of place in contrast to the standard caricatured version of Escobar’s. Moore writes, “Place emerges as a distinctive mixture, not an enduring essence, a nodal point where these translocal influences intermesh with practices and meanings previously sedimented in the local landscape” (20). (This jives quite compatibly with how Escobar talks about place in Territories of Difference—and, not surprisingly, both books have “place” in their subtitles.) It’s hard to distinguish this from the assemblage he sees as territory.


This entry was posted in Antonio Gramsci, Governmentality, Historical-Geographies, Michel Foucault, Nation/Nationalism, Place, Post-Colonial, Power, Race & Ethnicity, Scale, Spatiality, Territory, Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

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