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Graves, ruins, and belonging: towards an anthropology of proximity*

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Graves, ruins, and belonging: towards an anthropology of proximity* J F University of Edinburgh This article uses ethnographic material collected around Lake Mutirikwi in southern Zimbabwe, to explore how the affective presence of graves and ruins, which materialize past and present occupations and engagements with/in the landscape (by different clans, colonial and postcolonial state institutions, war veterans, chiefs, and spirit mediums, as well as white commercial farmers), are entangled in complex, localized contests over autochthony and belonging, even as they are finely implicated in wider reconfigurations of authority and state-craft. Situating these highly contested assertions, discourses, and practices in the context of national redefinitions of citizenship and belonging articulated by ZANU PF’s rhetoric of ‘patriotic history’, this article explores how these contests are made real through the consequential materiality of milieu. Although the central hook will be the prominent role that graves, both ancestral ‘mapa’ and recent burials, have played in ongoing claims to land and authority, its main perspective will be on how different, overlapping, and intertwined notions of belonging are enabled, constrained, and structured through the materiality of place, thereby emphasizing the proximity of discourses and practices of belonging that derives from the shared nature of material landscapes. In this vein, the ruins and graves of past white occupation and interventions in the landscape comingle and coexist with the resurgent appeals of local clans to ancestral territories on occupied lands. The broader theoretical purpose of the article is to engage with recent debates over materiality and anthropology’s so-called ‘ontological turn’ to make a case for focusing less on ‘radical ontological difference’ and more on material, historical, and conceptual proximities. This article has three purposes. Firstly, I discuss contestations over autochthony and belonging taking place in the context of recent ‘fast-track’ land reform around Lake Mutirikwi in Southern Zimbabwe, in order to contribute to a growing body of work 1 that has explored how land reform is part of an ongoing remaking of the (postcolonial) state. Secondly, I consider this micro-politics of belonging in relation to recent, diverse (but I suggest often complementary) approaches to‘materiality’, which have sought to decentre the agency of human subjects by exploring the agency, affordances, and affective qualities of objects and landscapes (Edensor ; Gell ; Ingold ; ; Latour ; Miller ; Navaro-Yashin ; Stoler ). Finally, I link these * Curl Lecture, . Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) , - © Royal Anthropological Institute
Transcript

Graves, ruins, and belonging:towards an anthropologyof proximity*

J!!"# F!$#%&$ University of Edinburgh

This article uses ethnographic material collected around Lake Mutirikwi in southern Zimbabwe, toexplore how the affective presence of graves and ruins, which materialize past and presentoccupations and engagements with/in the landscape (by different clans, colonial and postcolonialstate institutions, war veterans, chiefs, and spirit mediums, as well as white commercial farmers), areentangled in complex, localized contests over autochthony and belonging, even as they are finelyimplicated in wider reconfigurations of authority and state-craft. Situating these highly contestedassertions, discourses, and practices in the context of national redefinitions of citizenship andbelonging articulated by ZANU PF’s rhetoric of ‘patriotic history’, this article explores how thesecontests are made real through the consequential materiality of milieu. Although the central hookwill be the prominent role that graves, both ancestral ‘mapa’ and recent burials, have played inongoing claims to land and authority, its main perspective will be on how different, overlapping, andintertwined notions of belonging are enabled, constrained, and structured through the materiality ofplace, thereby emphasizing the proximity of discourses and practices of belonging that derives fromthe shared nature of material landscapes. In this vein, the ruins and graves of past white occupationand interventions in the landscape comingle and coexist with the resurgent appeals of local clans toancestral territories on occupied lands. The broader theoretical purpose of the article is to engagewith recent debates over materiality and anthropology’s so-called ‘ontological turn’ to make a casefor focusing less on ‘radical ontological difference’ and more on material, historical, and conceptualproximities.

This article has three purposes. Firstly, I discuss contestations over autochthony andbelonging taking place in the context of recent ‘fast-track’ land reform around LakeMutirikwi in Southern Zimbabwe, in order to contribute to a growing body of work1

that has explored how land reform is part of an ongoing remaking of the (postcolonial)state. Secondly, I consider this micro-politics of belonging in relation to recent, diverse(but I suggest often complementary) approaches to ‘materiality’, which have sought todecentre the agency of human subjects by exploring the agency, affordances, andaffective qualities of objects and landscapes (Edensor '((); Gell *++,; Ingold *++';'((-; Latour *+++; Miller '((); Navaro-Yashin '((+; Stoler '((,). Finally, I link these

* Curl Lecture, '((+.

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discussions to anthropology’s recent ‘ontological turn’, which has seen a renewed and‘deepened’ concern with ‘radical ontological difference’ (Carrithers, Candea, Sykes &Holbraad '((,; Henare, Holbraad & Wastell '((-), to make a case for focusing ondiscursive, historical, and material coexistences and proximities. How do the materialforms of different past and present practices in the landscape reveal and materializeproximities and coexistences even as they are often articulated in political processes ofdifferentiation? What is the significance for anthropology of such material and histori-cal proximities and coexistences in shared landscapes? I suggest that in social andhistorical contexts where difference is increasingly politicized, as the contours of politi-cal inclusion and exclusion are dramatically redrawn, such as in post-'((( Zimbabwe,sensitivity to people’s material engagements with space and substance can offer a wayof writing against such politicized differences, rather than reasserting them on evermore abstract philosophical grounds.

The Boroma hillsI begin by discussing two apparently unrelated phenomena that have taken place in anarea of Masvingo district known locally as the Boroma hills, in order to introduce howthe remains of different pasts are ‘active’ in ongoing, entangled discourses and practicesof belonging and autochthony in the Masvingo area. These hills lie to the south of LakeMutirikwi, a modern dam built in the *+.(s, on the boundary of what were once thefarms of Oatlands, Le Rhone, Clifton, and The Retreat, and are now at the centre oflocalized contests over authority and belonging between two neighbouring Dumachiefs and their clans (Murinye and Mugabe), and between the inhabitants of severallocal resettlement schemes that were established soon after independence when thesefarms formally became ‘state land’. Many of these schemes’ grazing areas, as well asswathes of land bordering the lake, have been informally occupied by ‘squatters’ sincethe start of Zimbabwe’s infamous land invasions in early '(((. Although these occu-pations were not officially part of ZANU PF’s so-called ‘third chimurenga’, the broaderupheavals and rhetoric of ‘fast-track’ land reform did provide an appropriate politicalmilieu for what some saw as the return of long-claimed ancestral territory.2 Theserecent occupations are mirrored all around Mutirikwi, where resettled commercialfarms and state land have been claimed by a variety of chiefs and their clans, many ofwhom remember being evicted not only after earlier waves of ‘squatting’ soon afterindependence, but also much earlier during the colonial period. The area surroundingBoroma is notable because it lies on older colonial boundaries between white commer-cial farms and two former ‘native reserves’, and sits on the edge of the middle-veldescarpment, where it leads down to the hot, dry but fertile plains of the low-veld.

The area’s complex historical geography is reflected in a myriad of debates betweengovernment institutions over land use around the lake.These disputes centre on differentland designations, including national parkland, formal (older post-independenceand recent ‘fast-track’) resettlement schemes, communal areas, and a protective boun-dary zone to prevent the lake’s siltation. Often these struggles reflect and exacerbatepolitical tensions between local factions within ZANU PF, as well as drawing in complexalliances with war veteran groups, local chiefs, councillors, and others.3

The two phenomena I begin with are the '((/ burial of Chief Murinye in Boroma,andthe ghost of George Sheppard, who often appears to guests at the nearby Ancient Cityhotel,which Sheppard himself built on a plot near Great Zimbabwe National Monumentin the *+0(s. These examples introduce a broader consideration of how the remains of

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different pasts present in the landscape, as ghosts and ancestors, graves and ruins,are ‘active’ in the varying ways that they materialize, constrain, enable, and structuredifferent, entangled discourses and practices of autochthony and belonging at play inthe reconfiguration of authority over land, and the wider ‘remaking’ of the state pro-voked by ‘fast-track’ land reform. This provides the context for a discussion of therecent burgeoning of anthropological interest in questions of materiality, ruination,affect,andthe‘agency’of objects,andleads intomylargerargumentaboutanthropology’sneed to reconsider the historical, conceptual, and material coexistences and proximitiesthat our discipline’s long history of allegiance to ‘difference’ tends to eschew.

The burial of Chief MurinyeIn late '((/, Chief David Mudarikwa Murinye died. Having been chief for over fiftyyears, his death and subsequent burial amongst the ancestral graves of past Murinyechiefs in the Boroma hills was bound to be a significant event. By all accounts he hadled a remarkable life.4 Born around *+'* on a small hill on Oatlands farm,5 the late chiefspent his childhood living at a granite ruware (bare rock outcrop) below Boromaknown as Chingomana, on the nearby farm known as The Retreat.6 In the *+/(s,Mudarikwa was removed, with many others, from Boroma to the Mtilikwe reservebeyond the Mutirikwi River, at a time when Africans were removed from Europeanfarms all over the country, after the infamous Land Apportionment Act (*+0().

The late chief’s uncle, Chief Mabika, was buried in the Boroma hills, as was hisgrandfather, Chief Wushe. His father (Chief Wurayayi) was installed there sometimebefore they were evicted in *+/+. When Mudarikwa himself succeeded to chieftaincy, hesuffered a series of witchcraft-induced afflictions, including a snakebite which left himwith a lifelong limp. Later the old chief witnessed the building of the Mutirikwi damand lived through the turmoil of the liberation struggle. Shortly after independence, heand many of his people (and other ‘squatters’) reoccupied Boroma, reclaiming it astheir own, before being removed for a second time to make room for the mhinda mirefuresettlements of the *+,(s.7 In '((', at the height of ‘fast-track’ land reform, he returnedto Boroma again, now an old man, to claim his birthplace and ancestral mapa (sacredsite), where he was finally interred in '((/.

In the context of wider upheavals over land, authority, and belonging, Murinye’sburial in the landscape was a politically motivated as well as emotionally charged event.As directed by his ancestors, the late chief had before his death indicated the precisespot where he wanted to be buried, in a cave which constitutes a major ancestral mapa,near to his own birthplace and childhood, and alongside the makuva (graves) of hisancestors and the matongo (ruined homesteads) of his fathers. With his son, now actingchief, embroiled in a continuing boundary dispute with a neighbouring chief(Mugabe), as well as ongoing tensions between these ‘returning’ settlers and occupiersof the older resettlements, and with the involvement of a complicating myriad of stateinstitutions (council, district, and provincial administrators, ministries/departments oflands, natural resources, agriculture, water, etc.), it is clear this burial was an intenselypolitical act that sought to materialize Murinye claims to autochthony and belonging,in order to substantiate claims of authority and sovereignty over land resources in thearea. Murinye’s son, the acting chief, moved with his father into Boroma in '((', andby '(()/., when fieldwork for this project was carried out, had begun to build his houseon a carefully chosen site below the hills.8

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But Murinye’s burial was not merely an instrumental exercise. It was also the resultof the nostalgic longings of an old man, and a response to the ancestrally directed needto live amongst, and guard over, the matongo and makuva of ancestral forebears. Andthe controversies that surrounded the burial were more complex than simply thecontested claims of rival chiefs over land and authority. Chief Murinye died in Decem-ber '((/, and was buried the next day in secret with only a handful of elders present.No announcement was made until the public funeral three months later. Later thatyear, after the harvests, the acting chief imposed a six-week ban on all agricultural workacross his chiefdom, a ‘traditional’ mourning practice known as mahakurimwi. Thisprovoked the ire of many Murinye ‘subjects’ concerned about their loss of earnings,especially given the difficult macro-economic conditions. The burial organizers, theacting chief, and the spirit medium Ambuya VaZarira saw these strict conditions as theproper (‘traditional’) funerary procedures for a Murinye chief, ensuring his transfor-mation into a protective ancestor (Lan *+,): 0*-)). Both described how the late chief wasburied in a wet skin of a black bull, seated upright on a throne of stones, overlookingthe valley below, walled up in a cave opening that was once the dare (meeting place) ofthe late chief’s grandfather, Chief Wushe.9 As VaZarira continued:

We wrapped him in a cattle skin and no one knew what was taking place, even his wives did not know... That is our rule, because Murinye is the eldest chief around here.

After three months, we told the Sabhuku [kraalheads] ... that is when the whole land knew the chiefis no more ... Chief Charumbira turned up ... he said to me ‘Ambuya what you have done is amazing... what you have done is very original to your ancestors’ ... That was how we buried your friend, Joe[referring to the author], and even Charumbira was afraid of that.10

For VaZarira, Chief Charumbira’s response was very significant. The Charumbiraclan is not only a historical rival to the Duma clans, the current chief is also a majorrival for political influence across the district, as powerful head of the National Councilof Chiefs, and an influential member of ZANU PF. In July '((), he publicly defendedthe acting chief’s imposition of mahakurimwi, in response to villagers’ complaintsreported in The Herald (*, July '(()). Given Charumbira’s well-known advocacy for a‘return’ of chiefs’ powers, it is perhaps not surprising that he defended the actions of achief who many might position as his historical rival. VaZarira’s comment that ‘evenCharumbira was afraid of that’ points to this rivalry, but also to a shared sense of the‘power’ that can accumulate from following ‘proper traditions’, chivanhu. There is akind of ‘moral conviviality’ (Fontein '((.c), a shared moral episteme, in which allchiefs, spirit mediums, and other ‘traditional leaders’ are located, despite personalanimosities, differing religious or political allegiances, or historical contests betweenclans. A central tenet of this moral conviviality is a recognition that living descendantsof dead chiefs have privileged access to particular knowledge about the land, its sacredplaces, taboos, and ritual practices, that ensures adequate rainfall, general prosperity,and protection from disease and misfortune. This ‘moral conviviality’ is one importantfacet, alongside a diversity of technocratic imperatives, appeals to developmentalism,and differing versions of ‘traditional’ rule, not to mention the complex political agendasof ZANU PF patrons, feeding into the ongoing restructuring of authority over landacross Zimbabwe’s changing rural landscapes (Chaumbe et al. '((0a; '((0b; Fontein'((.c; '((+a; Hammar et al. '((0; Marongwe '((0; Mubvumba '(()). In this context,the burial of Chief Murinye among the mapa of his ancestors was not only about

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materializing autochthony for the purposes of claiming land, but also about renegoti-ating regimes of rule and reconfiguring structures of sovereignty over territory andpeople, a process which, as many have discussed, gained new salience in the wake of‘fast-track’ land reform (Alexander '((.; Chaumbe et al. '((0a; '((0b; Hammar et al.'((0; Marongwe '((0; Mubvumba '((); Muzondidya '((-; Sadomba '((,; Scoones'((,). In other words, the politics of Murinye’s burial are as much implicated in a widerremaking of the state as they are about substantiating Murinye claims in historicalcontests with neighbouring chiefs.

The grumblings of villagers about the agricultural ban illustrate how Murinye’sburial was also implicated in the internal politics of ‘chiefly’ rule; particularly in thetension between assertions of ancestral authority and the demands of pastoral care. Theancestral dimension of this internal politics was demonstrated at Boroma again later in'((), when a series of unexplained fires were interpreted by some as a response by theancestors to unruly new settlers breaking taboos by cutting firewood and setting trapsin the sacred mapa.11 The concern the new chief and VaZarira showed about these fireshighlights both how seriously they take the protection of sacred sites and ancestraltaboos, and how their own authority, even among people living in fairly close vicinity,is not necessarily a given, particularly in recent, unplanned (and informally) resettledareas such as around Boroma.

A newspaper report in November '((. indicated that some in the area were deeplyconcerned about ‘the massive environmental degradation’ caused by ‘illegal settlerswho include war veterans, ordinary villagers and their leader, Chief Murinye’, who had‘invaded an area on the banks of the lake reserved for wild animals’.12 The acting chiefagreed environmental degradation was a concern and that new settlers needed torespond to technocratic demands, but also deftly argued that these ecological concernsfurther demonstrated the need to ensure that ancestral lands were properly occupied bythose autochthons who ‘know the land’ and are best able to protect it. Clearly theauthority of ‘traditional’ leaders over land in which they have resettled themselves doesnot exist in simple opposition to the governmental regimes of formally plannedresettlement, but rather intertwines with them in complex ways.

The ghost of George SheppardGeorge Sheppard was born to a fishing family in Grimsby, England. He went to SouthAfrica to fight in the Boer war but arrived too late, so joined Cecil Rhodes’s BritishSouth Africa Police in *+(/. After working in Bulawayo, he moved to Fort Victoria (nowMasvingo town) to work in the Victoria Hotel. Later he bought the farm known as LeRhone farm, between Great Zimbabwe and the Boroma hills, and next to The Retreat,where the late Murinye grew up. There, in the early *+0(s, he built Sheppard’s Hotel,13

on a site still referred to by locals (and on maps) as ‘Sheppard’s plot’, where the AncientCity hotel now stands. In *+)', he died from black water fever.14 From *+)0, Le Rhonewas run as a cattle ranch by Sheppard’s daughter Joan until it was sold in *+.,, when,as her son Simon Bright explained, she left the country with her family as ‘part of awhole generation of liberal whites who were driven out by Ian Smith’. It is not clearwhere George Sheppard was buried. Some locals believe that ‘Magigan’, as he was locallyknown, was buried near to his hotel, or perhaps on his farm. His grandson Simon doesnot know either, but, like many locals, he does refer to stories about Sheppard’s ghostappearing to guests and haunting managers at his old hotel: ‘He’s been a spirit around

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there for a long time ... local people always respond when I say I am the grandson ofMagigan ... I have ... poured whisky out onto the ground for his spirit ... but I have neverseen his ghost myself ’.15

Simon himself fondly remembers and has a deep attachment to or ‘obsession with ...the landscape of my childhood’ around Boroma. Stories about his grandfather’s ghostand his own offerings of whisky to him upon returning to Zimbabwe substantiate thispersonal sense of belonging by materializing his family’s history in the landscape. InAugust '((,, he reminisced of school holidays on the farm, playing with the localAfrican kids, chasing baboons, collecting mashanje fruits, and so on.16 There are strik-ing resemblances between Simon’s memories of the area as the ‘landscape of hischildhood’, and acting Chief Murinye’s description of his late father’s stories of herdinggoats as a child and hunting with dogs with his friends in the Boroma area. While thesestories sometimes refer to the wrath of the white farmer who owned The Retreat,‘Shumba’ Wallace (Sheppard’s neighbour),17 indicating the very different childhoodexperiences of the late Murinye before *+/+, as the son of African tenants/workers on awhite farm, from those of Simon Bright after *+)0, as the child of white farm owners,both accounts do illustrate how attachments to landscape, indeed a sense of belonging,can involve deeply personal and affective memories of past experiences. In bothaccounts there is also a sense that such memories become particularly acute exactly inhistorical contexts of migration, dispossession, and return.

But there are also obvious differences in the purposes of narrating such stories.Bright is not embroiled in the same array of contests with neighbouring chiefs, landsettlers, and government structures in the way the late chief and his son have been sincetheir return in '(('. He is not trying to legitimize a claim to land through appeals toautochthony, and nor is he able to narrate a history of violent, state-institutionalized,racialized dispossession, even if he did leave Rhodesia to avoid Smith’s increasinglyright-wing politics. Yet Simon did describe how he returned two years after indepen-dence ‘keen as mustard’ to do something for the new country and particularly for thearea around his family’s former farm. He joined Agritex and became involved in ruraldevelopment. In the *++(s, he contributed to various projects near Boroma with hischildhood friend Thomas Mapanda. For Bright, his own childhood memories andfriendships, but equally his family’s history in the area, bequeathed him with a right ofaccess; a right ‘to roam the landscape’ involving not the ‘terrible weight of responsibilitythat ownership brings’, but rather a strong desire to re-establish past relationships withpeople and the land and to do ‘something good’. Most interestingly, Simon describedwhat he saw as his inherited right to visit, and responsibility to keep secret, the sacredBoroma caves, which his grandfather had first been shown by a local spirit mediumcalled Ndavanga (his friend Mapanda’s father). In his words, ‘It says something aboutmy grandfather’s reputation with the locals that he was shown these sacred caves ...whenever I have been to those caves, I have made offerings to the spirits ... and we havekept that commitment to keeping the caves secret’.

The importance of the sacred Boroma caves for both the late Murinye and his sonand George Sheppard and his grandson is striking, even if they are quite possiblytalking about different caves – the late chief’s grave lies on the other side of the Boromahills from those described by Bright, and there are many hilltops, caves, and rocks inthat area. Even more striking are the resemblances in how belonging is understood interms of kin-based, inherited responsibilities over the land, and the protection of secretknowledge about sacred places and ancestral rituals. But the resemblances do not stop

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there. Most significantly, in '((*, before leaving Zimbabwe for a second time, Bright(re)buried his parent’s remains ‘there on The Retreat, at a place with a lovely viewoverlooking the lake’, under a stone bench below a Mukwa tree.18

While this quiet reburial materializes Bright’s understanding of his parents’, and hisown, relationship with the land, and so it does resemble Murinye’s burial in nearbyBoroma, it is not clear what the late chief or his son (or others in the area) made of this.It happened before or just as they were returning to the area. Bright acquired the graniteslab for the bench from locals living on nearby resettlements, and there had been someproblems afterwards: ‘[B]ut the grave was not desecrated or anything like that, as far asI know I just did it!’, he joked.19 Exception could have been taken to this burial in thesame way that neighbouring chiefs (particularly Chief Mugabe) have taken exception toMurinye’s subsequent burial in Boroma, but it may also be that there would be noobjection as long as the correct rituals had taken place to ensure the ancestors wereplacated. Graves and burials intersect with the politics of recognition (Englund &Nyamnjoh '((/) in very complex ways, drawing in not only the graves of colonialsettlers and returning, competing chiefs, but also those of earlier clans displaced orsubsumed when the Duma first occupied the area in the nineteenth century (Mtetwa*+-.). Maybe a clue to how the acting chief might respond to this burial lies in hisdescriptions of Sheppard’s ghost at the Ancient City hotel. Long before I met SimonBright, I had already heard about Sheppard’s ghost when the acting chief explainedproblems he was having in '((. with the new hotel management, who were refusingaccess to carry out ‘annual rituals’ for some Murinye graves located at the same site. Asthe acting chief explained, these ‘annual rituals’ are essential to ward off ancestralproblems that in the past had manifest as swarms of flies, ticks or troubling snakes:

[E]ven Mr Sheppard himself has appeared on several occasions ... They find him sitting on the bedholding his ivory walking stick, talking about things that are being done wrong at the place and whatthe other spirits are saying. The staff would call us and we would come, do these rituals, put snuffdown and these problems would go away.20

The way that Sheppard’s ghostly presence has been incorporated in this ‘autochtho-nous’ account of Murinye’s ritual responsibilities at the hotel indicates it is quitepossible that the burial of Bright’s parents near Boroma will not cause any significantproblems. Indeed, perhaps like Sheppard, their presence, too, will be incorporated intothe autochthony of others, so that, in a sense, they, too, can ultimately belong.21

What particularly interests me about the demanding presence of Sheppard’s ghostalongsideMurinyegravesat thehotel ishowtheseverydifferentpastscoincideandcoexistin close and active proximity in the same place and time. If, as I argue, the remains andpresence of different pasts in the landscape (as ghosts and ancestors, graves and ruins,makuva and matongo) are ‘active’ in the varying ways that they materialize, constrain,enable, and structure different, entangled discourses and practices of autochthonyand belonging, then there is, I suggest, a need to explore the historical, conceptual,and material proximities of such discourses and practices that derive from the sharednature of material landscapes. The ghost of George Sheppard may be exceptional – I havenot come across other white ghosts in the area – but the material remains of whiteoccupationinthe landscapeareallaround,fromruinedfarmhouses,graves,old irrigationschemes, and dilapidated farm-tracks to signs, place-names, and boundaries, not tomention the commanding presence of the Mutirikwi dam itself. The contrast drawn

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here between traces of white colonial occupation and those of Africans once removed andnow returning is a deliberately stark and polarized portrayal of a much more complexarray of coexistences and proximities always present and active in any landscape. Thereare a multitude of differences, not reductive to ‘race’ or ‘culture’, the proximities andcoexistences of which may be of interest around Mutirikwi: between ‘autochthons’ and‘strangers’, competing chiefs and clans, ‘technocrats’ and ‘traditional elders’, local coun-cillors and government bureaucrats,war veterans and spirit mediums,political parties orfactions within them, and so on. What I want to explore is how the material forms of allthese different past and present practices in the landscape reveal and materialize prox-imities and coexistences even as they are often articulated in political processes ofdifferentiation. What do all these material traces, this presence of different but sharedpasts, do in ongoing struggles of authority, sovereignty, autochthony and belongingaround Lake Mutirikwi? What is the significance for anthropology of these kinds ofmaterial and historical proximities and coexistences in shared landscapes?

Landscapes of belongingAs Geschiere and others (Cohen & Odhiambo *++'; Shipton '((+) have noted, funeralsin Africa often ‘constitute a high point for the reaffirmation of belonging’, even where‘quite different modalities of belonging are at stake’ (Geschiere '((): )+). As ‘truefestivals of belonging’, ‘the funeral offers an occasion to link “soil” and “body” in allsorts of naturalizing ways ... and of course, the climax of a funeral anywhere is when thebody of the deceased is committed to the soil’ (Geschiere '((+: *,, 0(). Yet despite theprominence given to funerals in this literature, and the well-recognized fact that‘autochthony’ implies a claim to a ‘special link to the soil’ (Geschiere '((+: '), littleattention is paid to what we might call materialities of belonging, and of graves inparticular, beyond emphasizing the immediate significance of how they link autoch-thony to place (Geschiere & Nyamnjoh '(((). What seems missing is an exploration ofthe ‘consequential materiality’ (Moore '((): '/) of interred bodies and burials, beyondmerely locating ‘belonging’ in the landscape. Graves and burial sites are not simplypassive and inert ‘criteria’ for assertions of belonging, as ‘symbolic focal points ofhuman attachments’ (Shipton '((+: '() or ‘geographical markers’ or ‘evidence ofownership’ (Evers '((): ''0-/) – around Mutirikwi at least, graves and indeed ruinshave a more ‘active’ and ‘affective’ presence.

The anthropology of landscape provides more analytical tools with which to con-sider how, in Tilley’s words, ‘things and places are active agents of identity rather thanpale reflections of pre-existing ideas and socio-political relations’, with ‘real and ideo-logical effects on persons and social relations, things and places can be regarded asmuch subjects as objects of identity’ ('((.: *--*,). This perspective can be produc-tively merged with Geschiere’s emphasis on subjectivity, shared aesthetics, religioussymbols and style, and the emotive appeals of autochthony. For Geschiere, ‘[T]hespecial and highly variable meaning imputed to the soil ... can offer a vantage point ...for explaining autochthony’s varying trajectories’ ('((+: 0)). Certainly around Mutir-ikwi, ‘soil’ does take on different meanings in different languages of belonging beingarticulated – from evocative descriptions of war veterans as vana vevhu (sons ofthe soil); to spirit mediums’ assertions that ivhu rakatsamwa (the soil is angry) at theperceived failures of chiefs, new settlers, and others kuchengeta vhu (to protect thesoil); all of which intertwine with land and water planners’ concerns about soilerosion and agriculturalists’ classifications of good and bad soils. But this focus on

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meanings imputed to soil falls short of explaining how soil, like ‘things and places’, isan active agent of identity. If Geschiere’s emphasis on funerals highlights how sub-jectivity is important for understanding autochthony’s emotive appeal, then, likeNavaro-Yashin ('((+) suggests, we need to combine such a focus on ‘internal’ sub-jectivities with an understanding of the ‘external’ ‘affects’ of objects and landscapes.Murinye’s burial was significant both for the political implications of the funeralprocess itself, and the emotive and kinship-based subjectivities involved, as well as itsfurther material substantiation of the Boroma hills as an active landscape of Murinyebelonging. If autochthony is highly mutable yet must involve a claim to the soil, thenfunerals are important not just as ‘festivals of belonging’ but in the way they creatematerial landscapes of belonging.

Graves and ruins, materiality and affectThe lack of attention to materialities of landscape in the autochthony and belongingliterature is surprising because clearly one important aspect of the politics of burialconcerns what the presence of graves may cause, enable, or constrain in the future.Across Zimbabwe, and indeed the region, the politics of burial often circulates exactlyaround what the presence of graves might subsequently lead to – from offendingancestors and causing drought or pestilence, to undermining official histories of pastviolence, or to substantiating (or not) the efficacy of new kinds of claims to land,resources, and authority (Fontein '((+b; '(*(; James '((+; Mujere '(*(; Posel & Gupta'((+; Werbner *++,). In this context, the graves and commemorative monuments ofcolonial settlers, such as Bright’s parents’ grave near Boroma, or the prospective gravesof recently evicted white farmers still determined to be buried on their former farms,22

or the various memorial chapels overlooking the lake,23 may all entangle with orprovoke new, unforeseen, kinds of politics. Similarly the graves of deceased farmworkers or other colonial-era African migrants continue to have a latent potential toprovoke future controversy.24 For people removed from the Nyangani and Chinangoareas when the Mutirikwi dam was built in *+.*, the presence of graves of their kith andkin under the lake’s waters, or among the hilltops that poke out as islands from itssurface, are intertwined with continuing demands for fishing rights, or long promisedbut not yet delivered irrigation schemes, such as in Zano on its eastern shores.

Around Mutirikwi such problematic politics of burial long pre-date the '((/ inter-ment of Murinye in Boroma. Burials in resettled areas have often provoked tensionsbetween returning ‘autochthonous’ clans and incoming ‘vatorwa’ (strangers).25 Suchburials can be problematic not just because they may provide future efficacy to com-peting claims and histories, but owing to anticipated problems from offended ancestorsor from dangerous ngozi spirits demanding to be returned home (Fontein '(*().Burials can create future obligations, as well as rights to the land, through the inter-mingling materials and substances of kin and soil. This certainly applies to the Murinyecaves in Boroma and at the Ancient City hotel, as witnessed by troubling fires, ghosts,and ticks. Another example is VaZarira’s self-expressed obligation to return to the graveof her spirit on Beza, north of the lake, ‘to clean the bones and sweep the mapa’.26

Similarly, many war veterans, government technocrats, and administrators haveacknowledged that, beyond official demands for agricultural productivity and environ-mental protection, existing graves and sacred places on resettled farms create particularkinds of obligations for new farmers towards autochthonous chiefs and their ancestralrules and taboos.27 Even National Parks rangers admitted to sweeping old Basutu graves

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in the game reserve (Mujere '(*() because they realized ‘it is in our interest to do that’.28

Elsewhere, drought, crop failure, misfortune, sickness, and even national economiccrisis have all been understood as the result of ancestral anger at the failures of newfarmers, war veterans, government employees, and sometimes chiefs themselves torespond to the obligations imposed by specific ancestral graves and sacred places in thelandscape. This is true at Great Zimbabwe (Fontein '((.a), but also northeast of thelake where Chief Chikwanda’s perceived denigration of ‘ancestral rules’ at Mafuse, amapa where Chikwanda chiefs were once dried and buried, led some to accuse him offailing to ‘look after the soil’, kuchengeta vhu, undermining his authority within his ownclan. Meanwhile his neighbour Chief Makore blamed poor rains and failing harvests on‘those fast-track people’ who ‘do not know the land’, and challenged Chikwanda’sattempt to settle nearby Zishumbe hill, claiming it is Makore’s sacred mapa where theirfounding ancestor Risipambi lies (dried) buried.29

But it is not just graves that continue to act in the landscape. Ruins and other tracesof past occupation, of other regimes of rule, are also important features in landscapesof belonging. One reason for linking graves and ruins in this way is ethnographic. Injustifying current occupations and claims to land, people referred not only to themakuva of their kith and kin, but also to matongo – ruined homesteads – and theirbirthplaces. Both the return and burial of the late Murinye as recounted by his son, andof course Simon Bright, referred to old houses and material features of the landscapesof their childhood, and this is repeated all around Mutirikwi.30 As with the motif of‘suffering for territory’ that Moore ('(()) identified in Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands,in Masvingo, too, legacies of remembered eviction and dispossession have oftenmerged with claims to ‘ancestral’ autochthony.

Ruins and traces of past material interventions in the landscape can be articulatedwith very different kinds of claims to belonging. Hughes ('((.a; '((.b; '(*(), forexample, discusses how for colonial settlers and ‘Euro-Africans’ refusing to engage withAfricans around them, agricultural improvements and particularly water engineering,became a mechanism for inscribing legitimacy, and belonging into the landscape. Theconstruction of Kariba, Lake Mutirikwi, and later smaller farm dams really was a‘heroic’ ‘hydrology of hope’ that sought to engineer ‘nature’ to satisfy white settlers’aesthetic needs for water in the landscape, for entertainment, ‘wilderness’, and, mostsignificantly, a claim to the soil (Hughes '((.b). Like graves, these kinds of ruins, tracesof past regimes of rule in the substance of landscapes, also continue to be ‘active’ in theway that they enable, constrain, and structure contests of belonging, entitlement, andauthority. The commanding presence of Lake Mutirikwi, and concerns about soilerosion and siltation, have dictated attitudes amongst government technocrats aboutsurrounding land use, which land-occupiers like Murinye at Boroma have had toengage with in very practical as well as discursive ways. Upon returning in '((', the lateChief Murinye and his son deliberately located their new homes topographically, whereany run-off does not threaten the lake but feeds into the Mutirikwi river downstreamof the dam, because, as the DA (District Administrator) put it, ‘he knows why he wasremoved from this side of the hill’ in the *+,(s.31

There is a growing literature on ruins, ruination, and affect, and this is my secondreason for linking graves and ruins here. As Stoler puts it, to explore colonial ruins andruination is to explore ‘the material and social afterlife of structures, sensibilities andthings ... the focus is not on inert remains but on their vital refiguration’ ('((,: *+/).Travelling across former white farms, I became accustomed to encountering material

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traces of settler occupation and colonial rule. Old farm-tracks, fencing standards,ruined buildings, and old dips conjure up images of particular pasts just as readily ascaves, sacred springs, and ancestral graves can. Visiting Boroma, we drove along an oldgravel farm-track, still signposted ‘Old Retreat road’, that used to be an entry point intothe Victoria reserve. Large concrete drains once dug under the road form treacherouslysteep humps that confront cars, drivers, and passengers with the area’s colonial pastsbut also with postcolonial failures to maintain roads and infrastructure, feeding local-ized struggles between chiefs and councillors for authority and developmental legiti-macy.32 Another day I picked up a rusty bullet as we rested from the sun – sparking myimagination with a wave of conflicting, emotive images of colonials hunting baboons,beating workers, evicting locals, and of liberation-era ‘contacts’ with ‘guerrillas’.33 Laterthat day I listened as similar melancholic imaginings were evoked in discussionsbetween the acting chief and VaZarira’s son Peter Manyuki as we explored the Boromacaves – of past chiefs feasting and holding court, or seeking refugee from nineteenth-century Ndebele raiders – provoked by the affective objects which we encountered,including pottery shards, grinding stones, and walled-up graves.34

Similarly, travelling across communal areas, I became increasingly aware of themagnitude of Alvordian ‘modernization’ and ‘centralization’ projects in ‘native reserves’during the *+/(s. Hundreds of kilometres of coercively constructed contour ridges arestill visible today. They remain ‘active’ and affective in the memories of people forced tobuild them,35 and, alongside drastic de-stocking which decimated African wealth, arerecalled in legacies of suffering/eviction sometimes deployed in land claims, as well asin the continuing insistence of land technocrats upon the prevention of soil erosionthrough contour ploughing, ridging, and prohibitions on river-bank cultivation. Withthe continuing use of colonial place names (farm names but also nicknames ascribed tosettler farmers),36 these kinds of traces, like Sheppard’s ghost, illustrate how, just asAfrican presences were not obliterated by colonial land appropriations, so the Euro-pean settler presence continues to be active and affective in complex ways today.

Such politically salient melancholia inspired by affective objects and places is notseparate from memories, imaginations, or discursive constructions of the past; ratherthey are entangled and mutually constitutive. As Navaro-Yashin ('((+) argues, one ofthe weaknesses of the recent affective turn is a deliberate disavowal of the discursive andimaginative dimensions of affect – as if what Edensor calls the ‘sensual immanence ofthe experience of travelling through a ruin’ is somehow dependent upon the ‘usualuncertainty about what went on within these abandoned buildings’ that he experiencedexploring industrial ruins in the UK ('((): *)). Around Mutirikwi, as with Cypriotlandscapes, experiencing the affectivity of ruins and material remnants of the past isnot dependent upon a lack of historical knowledge or imagination but fundamentallyintertwined with them (Navaro-Yashin '((+: */-*)).

In recent literature, processes of ‘ruination’ have also received attention (cf. Stoler'((,). Drawing on Walter Benjamin, the violation of ruination is ‘the underlyingcondition for the production of emergent forms of politics and social life’ (Navaro-Yashin '((+: -). Like Northern Cyprus, around Mutirikwi new configurations of local-ized authority have been or are being fashioned ‘out of appropriating, using, andexchanging objects captured by violation from other people’ ('((+: ,). A good exampleis the way former farmhouses, buildings, and removable property have sometimesprovoked nasty disputes on resettled farms. In some areas, farmhouses and theircontents have been claimed, occupied, or taken by local elites; elsewhere buildings have

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been stripped of reusable materials, including window- and door-frames, roofing,fence-posts, wire, and so on.37 But it is not just ‘abject objects’, but languages andpractices, things, places, and ideas that have ‘been consumed, and this consumption hasbeen generative of new subjectivities and a new political system’ (Navaro-Yashin '((+:.), in a kind of bricolage of old elements reconfigured into something new.38 Just ascolonial-era evictions and land appropriations were not able to fully obliterate preco-lonial African languages and practices of belonging and rule around Mutirikwi, sopost- and anti-colonial political movements designed to obliterate colonial pasts inevi-tably draw in the ruined objects of their ruination. Such theories of ruination provideus with a framework not only for understanding how objects can have affects, but alsohow such affective objects, places, and landscapes are intimately involved in politicalprocesses of change. These processes of change necessarily involve continuities derivingin part from material and conceptual coexistences and proximities with the very ruinsof those past political orders. And this is despite the politics of differentiation andexclusion such processes often involve.

Navaro-Yashin eloquently uses this ambivalent notion of ruination to argue thatacademic (particularly anthropological) knowledge production has a tendency to cata-strophically ‘ruin’ old ‘paradigms’, and then set them up in deliberate, exaggerated,antithesis to the new theoretical fad of the moment. In this ruination, there is an artificialseparation and distancing between theoretical perspectives which ethnography cannotjustify: ‘[B]eyond paradigmatic shifts and wars, theories of affect and subjectivity, as wellas of objects and symbolization,demand to be merged’('((+: *-).Around Mutirikwi, theactive, affective presence of graves and ruins also crosses over such polarized dividesbetween theories of affect and subjectivity, and object-orientated approaches and socialconstructivism. In fact I think we could go further. The burgeoning of interest inmateriality, affect, and the agency of objects means that there is now a wide array ofanalytical tools for considering how graves and ruins can have an ‘active’ presence indiscourses, practices, and contestations of autochthony and belonging. One perspec-tive shared by all these approaches is the problematization of Cartesian distinctionsbetween subject and object, mind and matter, in exploration of the ‘imbrication of thesemiotic and the material’ (Deleuze & Guattari *+,- [*+,(]: 00-, cited in Moore '((): '/).

A contrast has often been drawn (Miller '(()) between Gell’s ‘theory of abduction’and the ‘inferred intentionality’ of art (*++,) and Latour’s notion of objects as non-conscious ‘actants’ in ‘networks of hybrids’ (*+++).39 Different as these perspectivesmight be, in my view they are most usefully seen as complementary rather thanmutually exclusive. Just as bones and bodies animate Zimbabwe’s ‘politics of the dead’in differing ways (Fontein '((+b; '(*(), so both are reflected in the way graves andruins are ‘active’ around Mutirikwi. Gell’s notion finds resonances in the way ancestralgraves and sacred mapa create social obligations and can cause drought, sickness,misfortune, or even political and economic strife. Here the agency of sacred placesderives, ultimately, from the intentionality of the spirits (whether ancestors or trou-bling, dangerous ngozi), and war veterans, new farmers, chiefs, and government admin-istrators and technocrats must, in some way, respond to that.40 Other things likehydrological engineering works such as the Mutirikwi dam, or contour ridges, can alsobe indexes (Gell *++,) carrying the distributed agency of their designers. But althoughthe remains of technocratic landscapes can continue to carry off some of their intendeddisciplining affects, this is not all that they do. Often highly planned landscapes,perhaps particularly (but not necessarily) those in ruin and decay, are active not as ‘a

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congealed residue of performance and agency in object-form ... via which their agencycan be communicated’ (Gell *++,: .,), but rather more like Latour’s unintentional‘actants’: for example, when the qualities of the soil itself or the presence of a nearbydam, topography, or indeed the availability of ‘abject objects’ to be looted/ruineddetermines, enables, or constrains what happens where, how, and by whom in theconstruction of new systems of rule provoked through ‘fast-track’ land reform.

A larger question, beyond the scope of this article, provoked by the way that graves,ruins, soil, contour ridges, and so on, can act both as indexes of distributed humanintentionality (Gell) and as non-human actants in complex ‘hybrid’ networks (Latour),is what this suggests about ‘agency’ itself (Ingold '((-: **).We can explore parallels herewith work by phenomenological thinkers. Ingold’s discussion (developed from Gibson*+-+) of the ‘mutual constitution’ (*++': /() and ‘dialectics of the interface betweenpersons and environment’, between the ‘affordances’ or ‘use-values’ of objects and the‘effectivities’ of subjects (*++': )*-') in some ways recalls Latour’s emphasis on networksbecause of its emphasis on ‘agentful’ relationships and processes. We can think abouthow graves, ruins, soil, and contour ridges have ‘affordances’ in political, social, andecological terms, as, of course, do the practices, languages, or ‘effectivities’ associatedwith them. More recently, Ingold’s critique of ‘materiality’ in favour of the properties,flows, and transformations of materials ('((-) further enriches our understanding ofhow objects/materials do things in Zimbabwe: by highlighting, for example, how thecontainment, transferences, and merging of materials, such as bodily substances, intosoil often animates the politics of violence and burial (Fontein '(*().

For Ingold, materials matter because to talk of the ‘materiality of an object’ is anabstraction. I am sympathetic. Certainly the significance of graves in contests overbelonging around Mutirikwi relates intimately to the merging of substances, of bodiesinto the soil, and Ingold’s perspective can help us understand that what matters is notnecessarily pre-constituted and bounded objects like ‘the body’, ‘graves’, or indeed thesoil, but rather the properties and flows of materials between them. Yet more, I sense,can be achieved by reaching for complementarity than by staging dramatic antitheses.One result of a determination to focus on materials and substances is that inevitablyattention is reverted back to how materials become ‘objects’, physically, but also con-ceptually, historically, and politically. We could ask, how was the Mutirikwi dam con-structed? What were the material as well as social, historical, and political (not tomention conceptual) affordances, effectivities, and processes that enabled such anobject to become, with its own subsequent (material, social, political, and conceptual)consequences? Or how are graves and ruins constituted as, and how do they become,active and affective ‘objects’ from the merging substances of body, clay, and soil? Beyondovercoming conventional Cartesian dualities, Ingold’s emphasis on materials, muchlike Brown’s ‘Thing theory’ ('((*), points to the complex, and always incomplete,processes of becoming, through which both objects and subjects are constantly being(re)constituted, transformed and reassembled; and in turn how things, materials, andstuff are always both more and less than the objects and subjects that they constitute;substantive qualities that are in excess of, yet imbricated in, their own becomings andunbecomings (Harries & Fontein '(*().

If Ingold’s emphasis on materials therefore enriches our repertoire of tools withwhich to understand how materials/substances do things, then, like Navaro-Yashin, Ithink we need to deploy our scrutinizing gaze ‘against the grain of “ruination” in beinganti-, trans- or multi-paradigmatic’ ('((+: *-) in favour of an emphasis on how the

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ruins of theoretical ruination are necessarily constitutive of the new. One way of doingthis is to explore how theories too often opposed to each other can be complementarywhen viewed in close proximity.

Difference and proximityThere is another strand of work that makes an important contribution to questions ofmateriality. This is best represented by the introduction to Henare et al.’s Thinkingthrough things ('((-). Also determined to take ‘conventional’ dualisms to task, itfocuses sharply on a distinction between ‘ontology’ and ‘epistemology’, between ‘otherworlds’ and ‘other worldviews’. The authors argue for a new (‘more ethical’) method-ology, both radically essentialist and radically constructivist, through which artefactsand things, encountered ethnographically, without a priori assumptions distinguishingmeanings from things or perceiving from conceiving, may offer anthropology theopportunity to create new analytical concepts. Drawing its inspiration from anthro-pology’s so-called ‘ontological turn’ (vanguarded by Viveiros de Castro *++,), thisapproach has provoked considerable debate (Carrithers et al. '((,), enthusiasm,unease, and frustration within our discipline. One reason for the frustration maybe theendless circularity of academics accusing each other of reifying ‘latent dualisms’;41

another the conceit of claiming to propound a more ‘decent’, ‘ethical’ position (framedas a ‘return to (analytical) innocence’ or ‘radical humility’), advocating a ‘science of theontological self-determination of the world’s peoples’ (Viveiros de Castro '((0: *,), yetone that is radically anti-humanist in its eschewal of empathy with informants, on thebasis of not presuming to be able to say anything about them.42

While I sympathize with the main tenet proposed – that we can use things/artefactsencountered in fieldwork to challenge our own assumptions at profound levels – I dowonder how ‘radically new’ this approach really is. I remember my first ethnographicencounter with spirit possession in Zimbabwe. I made a conscious decision not toforeclose the possibility that the medium in front of me was genuinely possessed by anancestral spirit speaking through his body. This suspension of disbelief was not merelyto better understand another worldview, but to explore what a world inhabited byprotective, dangerous, and demanding spirits is actually like. I suspect the ethnographicstances taken by anthropologists have long been indeterminate in similar ways; agnosticrather than atheist, if you like. On our visit to Murinye’s grave in July '((., we got lostin tangled thicket, so the acting chief put down snuff as an ancestral offering toannounce our presence and request permission to enter. We quickly found the correctpath through the dense undergrowth to the mapa. The wonderment I shared with mycompanions was not because I had achieved some kind of privileged ethnographicaccess to another worldview; rather it was precisely because I felt I had entered anotherworld. Later, after considerable time exploring the caves, graves, ruins, and rocks of themapa, baboons in nearby trees suddenly became extremely aggressive in their barking,informing us we had overstayed our welcome. We promptly left the mapa, and foundour way out of the dense undergrowth of the hilltop.

The most significant aspect of the ‘ontological turn’ is the renewed and ‘deepened’recognition of the possibility of ‘radical difference’ or ‘alterity’, even if this ‘alterity’ isreified into rarefied philosophical realms, rather than located in the excessive potenti-ality of material substance, as other theorists of things would probably advocate(Brown '((*; Harries & Fontein '(*(). This is why the question of ontology’s relation-ship to the (older) culture concept – anthropology’s ‘traditional’ way of dealing with

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difference – has been subject to such debate (Carrithers et al. '((,). An ‘ontologicalperspective’ insists we take seriously the possibility of alterity – of radically differentworlds not reducible to different ‘worldviews’ – and that such profound differencesshould be used to question our own deepest assumptions. It is, if you like, anotherfundamental unpeeling of the onion, painful as that may be on the eyes. Fortunately, asCarrithers et al. ('((,) and others have stressed, anthropology does not have to become‘ontography’, and an interest in ontology can be part of the broader anthropologicalproject without swamping it.43

A good example of how an ontological approach can be deployed in anthropologythat remains focused on people is Scott’s The severed snake ('((-). His model of‘onto-praxis’ – ‘the organization of praxis as the situational engagement of social actorswith ontological categories’ ('((-: '() – does offer a way of taking ontology seriouslywithout denigrating the social/political lives of our informants themselves. Importantlysuch ‘onto-praxis’ may be fundamental to understanding how otherwise ‘superficial’‘political phenomena’ relate to, derive from, and are entangled with ‘deep ontologicalproblematics’, as Scott does in his analysis of the cosmic tensions of unity and diversitybetween ‘multiple ontologically distinct matrilineages’ at play in the politics of chiefsand warriors in pre- and postcolonial Arosi, in the Solomon Islands ('((-: '*-').

This approach has the benefit of taking the politics of difference occurring withinour ethnographic fields as seriously as the power involved in the relationship betweenanthropologists and informants – which is what an ‘ontological method’ as proposed byHenare et al. ('((-) risks privileging in its ‘decent’ refusal of the possibility of sayinganything about informants’ lives. Of course, ‘radical ontological differences’ do raiseimportant questions of politics and power almost immediately. Maintaining focus onthe politics of difference/sameness as it appears in ethnographic settings means thatquestions of consciousness soon come to the fore. We can easily foresee the rhetoricaltrick an ‘ontologist’ might perform here by relegating ‘consciousness’ to questions ofepistemology – of different ‘worldviews’ rather than ‘other worlds’ – but in practice itmay be very difficult to make such distinctions empirically and ethnographically. AsGluckman might have said, there is a ‘structuralist orthodoxy’ here which ‘leaves thenative unconscious’ (Werbner '((,: 0). It is indeed ‘a contradiction to reserve con-sciousness and reflexiveness for the anthropologist exclusively and yet to call for a levelplaying field, with equal self-determination for all’ (Werbner '((,: 0). Surely the poli-tics of difference crosses such strata in complex ways, and an ethnographic perspectivemust inform us that deep ontological differences are not separate from ‘shallow’epistemological or ‘even shallower’ social, historical, and political ones. Indeed asPovinelli’s work ('((*) has shown, the politics of commensuration/incommensurationis inevitably a social, historical, and sometimes violent process.

This brings us back to the politics of belonging and exclusion around Lake Mutir-ikwi – in which places and landscapes are active/affective in a myriad of ways – andtowards the argument I want to finish with for the value of focusing less on ‘radicaldifference’ and more on material, historical, and conceptual proximities. We can cer-tainly imagine there are ‘radical ontological differences’ at play in southern Zimbabwe.Upon close inspection, we might, for example, discover fundamental ontological dif-ferences in the way that places ‘do’ things – between, say, chiefs, traditionalists, andspirit mediums and members of African churches, or government technocrats and landplanners. We might also identify, like Scott, a kind of ‘poly-ontology’ of diverse origins,of ‘small-scale mono-ontologies’ ('((-: *)) in the contested assertions of ‘autochthony’

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articulated by competing clans. This might also confront a ‘racialized’ ontology whereradical difference is posited between Africans and Europeans, as, for example, in someextreme manifestations of ZANU PF’s political rhetoric. In all these cases it is notclear where ontology gives way to epistemology – all these differences are articulatedpolitically and consciously. Indeed maybe ontologically there are no profound differ-ences here at all. On the other hand, such politicized differences are sometimes used toimply radical ontological difference: as when people say whites are not affected bywitchcraft, or do not have ancestors only ghosts; or that these new settlers cannot lookafter the soil (kuchengeta vhu) because they are vatorwa (strangers) not varidzi wenyika(owners of the land); or in the very claim that war veterans are vana vevhu (sons of thesoil); or in the claim often articulated around Mutirikwi that ‘the problems that existare because the land is not with whom it belongs’.44 All these statements are deeplypolitical, but also maybe deeply ontological.

But having pointed out how the politics of difference entangles across such strata,implying that the epistemological,ontological,social,and political are finely intertwined,what is left to explore? Deploying a Thinking through things methodology to create newanalytical concepts may not help us gain a better understanding of the complex politicsof belonging and the active/affective role of graves and ruins around Mutirikwi. I suggestthat what follows the identification of difference, and indeed of processes of differentia-tion,should be a consideration of the coexistences and proximities that can cross over andconfront distances/differences. As Scott acknowledges, ‘ontology-based investigation’necessarily ‘confronts the fact that, in any given social context, more than one cosmo-logical system – and therefore more than one deep ontology – may coexist in tension’('((-: 0)). And, as his work on both the Solomon Islands and the situation aroundMutirikwi demonstrates, this coexistence in close proximity is historical, material,andperhapsultimatelyconceptual.Importantly,ananalyticof proximitydoesnoteschewdifference or change in favour of similarity or continuity; rather it seeks to provide aframework for understanding both at the same time.

ConclusionsMy research has led me to be interested in proximity in three ways.Ethnographically, I amstruck by the multiple material, historical, and conceptual proximities taking placearound Mutirikwi and suspect they are interrelated. I do not think the significance ofMurinye’s burial in Boroma is only coincidentally related to Bright’s burial of his parents’nearby, nor is the presence of Sheppard’s ghost at a hotel sited on the graves of Murinyeancestors, whatever different purposes or worldviews they encapsulate or in whatever‘different worlds’ they exist. Similarly, I am struck that the Boroma hills are sacredand demand particular rituals and responsibilities for both Bright and the late chief(and his son), just as war veterans and new settlers occupying former farms elsewhere,too, are often drawn into others’ autochthonous rituals. Indeed, white settler farmersalso often engaged in ritual events on their farms during the colonial period, by provid-ing beer, grain, or meat for rain-making ceremonies, as many informants suggested, anddid so, I suspect, not simply to placate ‘their’ workers but because they, too, needed rain.

I also suspect the entanglement of different languages and practices of belonging allaround Mutirikwi is intimately related to the historical and material coexistences andproximities of shared landscapes. Conceptual proximities can sometimes derive fromhistorical and material coexistences, even if this does not necessarily reduce the pro-found differences that may exist between, say, technocratic land management and ritual

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responses to ancestral demands, or between what the ghost of a colonial settler mightmean for his European descendant and what a white ghost signifies in the much moresophisticated spiritual repertoire to which Shona people refer.

Sometimes material proximities are deliberate political moves,45 but perhaps moreoften they are unintended but with equally profound results. A good example is Mor-phy’s (*++0) discussion of how colonial and indigenous landscapes came to be orien-tated around the same physical features in the Roper Bar Police Reserve of Australia’sNorthern Territory, which was subject to a land claim in the *+,(s by an Aboriginegroup known as the Ngalakan. Here, ‘[b]y a great irony of the colonial process Aborigi-nes and Europeans developed their strongest emotional attachments to precisely thesame places though the attachments are constructed on a quite different basis’ (*++0:'0+). This ‘irony’ is perhaps the proximity that I am discussing here. The material andhistorical proximity of different understandings of landscape – of different worlds, ifyou like – has real affects, it causes real changes, even as it may also allow, or be enabledby, certain continuing, fundamental differences.

Bernault ('((.) illustrates how such proximity can reduce otherwise radical alterityin very profound ways. Concluding her discussion of how both Europeans and Africans‘participated in the re-enchanting of the human body’ ('((.: '(-) in colonial Equato-rial Africa, through controversies surrounding the traffic and use of body parts,Bernault argues that

the formulaic similarity of white and black visions of the body and power suggests that the recon-figurations sparked by the colonial encounter can also be explained by the premise of historicalproximity. To suggest that colonizers and Africans shared mutually intelligible ideas and symbolicsystems ... pushes intricate issues first uncovered by the premise of difference further ... [T]he latentcompatibility between European and African symbolic systems did not stem from mere existenceof inert repertoires across the racial divide ... Colonial confrontations encouraged African and Euro-peans to transform their representations of the corporeal sacred, and to engage in an extensiverefetishization of the human body ('((.: '0.).

Such historical proximities can undermine ostensive differences because they involvenot coexistences of ‘inert repertoires’ but active encounters. Just as graves and ruinsaround Mutirikwi are not inert material expressions of politically deployed languagesof belonging and authority, but rather are active and affective in complex ways, so weshould envisage historical, material, and conceptual proximities as involving active,changing engagements between peoples, things, epistemologies, and even ontologies.And such engagements do not ‘make colonial differences disappear under the thick veilof resemblance; they merely locate ‘cultural and ideological conflicts on a differentplane’, amplifying how the politics of difference usually ‘crystallized less from existingsymbolic or material discrepancies than from conscious or unconscious strategies oforganizing ... difference’ (Bernault '((.: '0,).

This is my second reason for being interested in proximities. Zimbabwe’s post-'(((politics of land and state-making has manifest around Mutirikwi in a myriad ofcontested claims to belonging/non-belonging which have often been articulatedaround politically motivated assertions of difference. These localized (and localist)assertions replicate, however imperfectly, reconfigurations of political inclusion andexclusion at a national level, simultaneously resonating within a ‘global conjuncture ofbelonging’ (Li '(((, cited in Geschiere & Jackson '((.: 0). In this broader, and histori-cal (Mamdani *++.), context, the renewed emphasis on ‘radical difference’ impliedin anthropology’s ‘ontological’ turn needs to be handled very carefully indeed. As

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Ferguson warned of studies of ‘postcolonial mimicry’, the ‘ontological turn’, too, risksbecoming a means by which ‘anthropological otherness is salvaged’ ('((': ))/) andolder premises of cultural distance and heterogeneity are restored.46 We may do betternot by emphasizing ‘radical difference’ but rather by cultivating an acute sensitivity tothe proximities, coexistences, and continuities that derive from people’s shared mate-rial and historical engagements, as a way of writing against politicized differencesrather than reasserting them on ever more abstract philosophical grounds.

There are clear and important resonances here with older debates about social fieldtheory, particularly Gluckman’s ‘The bridge’ (*+), [*+/(]), even if my concern withactive/affective landscapes, and ‘ontology’, reflects more recent turns. So the thirdreason for my interest in proximity relates to anthropological knowledge production. Ifruination correctly involves a reincorporation of old elements in the new, then weshould recognize that staging radical antithesis or distance between new and oldtheoretical fads is unconstructive. In this way, an anthropology of proximity involvesnot just renewed conceptual reflexivity (or indeed creation) of the ilk ‘ontologists’might enthuse about, but also a better historical sensibility. Perhaps anthropology canlearn something from the ‘tidy consensus’ that has emerged in Africanist debates aboutethnicity, which in recognizing that ethnicities are ‘neither rooted in a timeless past norsimple colonial fabrications’ has highlighted the need ‘to map the historical trajectoriesof contemporary identities’ (Nugent '((,: +/,, emphasis added). In a similar way,anthropology needs to reconsider not only the historical trajectories of its own knowl-edge production, but also the historical, material, and conceptual coexistences andproximities that our discipline’s long history of allegiance to ‘difference’ tends toeschew. Across Zimbabwe’s changing landscapes, such an anthropology of proximitymight reveal the significant coexistence of far more than just white colonial ghosts andprecolonial African ancestors.

NOTESThis article is based on fieldwork carried out during '(()/. in Masvingo district in southern Zimbabwe,

when I was a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. It was funded by grantsfrom the British Academy, and the Munro, Hayter, and Tweedie funds administered by the University ofEdinburgh. I am grateful for this financial support, which made the research possible. I would also like tothank the Royal Anthropological Institute, who invited me to give the Curl Lecture in '((+, for which thisarticle was originally written, and Harri Englund, who invited me to present this article at the senior seminarseries in the Anthropology Department at Cambridge in January '(*(. I am grateful for the feedback receivedthere, and would also like to thank the following people who have all, in different ways, been influential in theresearching, writing, and revision of this work: my late friend and mentor Charles Jedrej, Terence Ranger,Richard Werbner, Matthew Engelke, and my colleagues and students in social anthropology at Edinburgh, offwhom I bounced my ideas as I originally formulated them in '((+. Finally I remain grateful to all inMasvingo and elsewhere who are the subjects of this research.

1 Alexander ('((.); Chaumbe, Scoones & Wolmer ('((0a; '((0b); Cousins ('((.); Hammar, Raftopoulos& Jensen ('((0); Kriger ('((.); McGregor ('(('); Marongwe ('((0); Moyo ('((*); Moyo & Yeros ('(());Mubvumba ('(()); Muzondidya ('((-); Raftopoulos ('((-); Rutherford ('((,); Sadomba ('((,); Scoones('((,).

2 ‘Fast-track’ land reform formalized the land invasions of '(((. Also known as ‘hondo yemhinda’ – the warof fields – this was later conceptualized as the third chimurenga, or liberation struggle, and was accompaniedby a dramatic narrowing of ‘nationalist history’ which Ranger ('((/) labelled ‘patriotic history’. ZANU PF(Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front) was the ruling party until the unity government formedin February '((+.

3 See Zimbabwe Times, *. July '((+; news.radiovop.com, '. March '(*(, *+ April '(*(; Wezhira CommunityRadio, ', February '((,.

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4 This information came from long conversations with his son, the acting chief in '(()-., but see alsoNational Archives of Zimbabwe (NAZ), S'++)/,/), and Mtetwa (*+-.).

5 ‘You can still see the tree that marks the spot where the homestead was’ (fieldnotes, '' May '((.).6 Fieldnotes, *0 June '((..7 Mhinda mirefu – or ‘long fields’ – refers to small-scale resettlement plots where fields, house plots, and

shared areas of pasture were formally delineated.8 Fieldnotes, '' May '((..9 Fieldnotes, '+ June '((. and '' May '((..10 Fieldnotes, *' December '(().11 Fieldnotes, */ December '(().12 Zimbabwe Standard, *' November '((..13 NAZ S+*//*'/-.14 Interview with S. Bright, / August '((,.15 Interview with S. Bright, / August '((,.16 Interview with S. Bright, / August '((,.17 ‘One time ... my father was herding goats near those ruins over there. The white farmer used to stand on

the stone walls and shout at his workers ... one day ... the white farmer ... fell down and broke his leg! ... everyonewas laughing ... but they had to turn their heads to one side so that they would not been seen ... And the whiteman was cursing ... look you use your witchcraft to make me break my leg ...’ (fieldnotes, ** June '((.).

18 His mother died in the early *+,(s; her ashes were scattered in Harare’s Warren Park cemetery. After hisfather died, Simon buried his remains near the lake with soil from that cemetery and some of his mother’sbelongings (interview with S. Bright, / August '((,).

19 Interview with S. Bright, / August '((,.20 Fieldnotes, '/ April '((..21 Such incorporation of ‘strangers’, even ‘invaders’, into existing religious structures has a long historical

precedence (e.g. Lan *+,); Ranger *+++).22 Pat Potgeiter, a former commercial farmer, insisted he would be buried in a family cemetery on his

former farm (fieldnotes, *)/*/(.).23 There are two such chapels: one built by Italian prisoners of war, the other by a Rhodesian to com-

memorate his daughter’s death (fieldnotes, ') May '((.).24 Such as the Basutu, whose short-lived ownership of Erichstahl farm in the *+0(s continues to be marked

by graves in what is now a National Park (Mujere '((.; '((+).25 Settlers living on Mzero since it ‘reverted’ to communal land after *+,( have often faced opposition from

Nemanwa elders for burying relatives of different clan identities at their homesteads (fieldnotes, *0-*. April'((. and *. April '((.).

26 Fieldnotes, *' June '(().27 Often war veterans spearheading land reform sought out ‘autochthons’ to settle ancestral problems

associated with graves and sacred places (Fontein '((.b; '((.c; '((+a; also Chaumbe et al. '((0a; '((0b;Marongwe '((0).

28 Fieldnotes, ') November '(().29 Fieldnotes, '. June '((.. Tensions escalated when Makore was assaulted by youths allegedly working for

Chikwanda (The Herald, + July '((,). In '(*(, the elder Makore died and his son was embroiled in newdisputes after imposing a two-week agricultural ban (news.radiovop.com, *0 January '(*().

30 Including Haruzvivishe people claiming land next to Great Zimbabwe; Chikwanda occupiers north andeast of the lake; and Charumbira people to the west.

31 This may not be not enough to prevent their future eviction, given the ‘catchment-wide’ concerns ofwater planners (fieldnotes, '* March '((.).

32 Fieldnotes, ** June '((..33 Fieldnotes, '+ June '((..34 On another occasion, Manyuki showed me BSACo buttons, tags, bullet casings, and beads he had

retrieved from Beza, as he pondered out aloud about what might have happened there in the past (fieldnotes,*' December '(()).

35 One person remembered a colonial official nicknamed Gabarinocheka (’tin can that cuts’) who ‘was madabout contour ridges’ (‘vaipengesa makandiwa’) and used to drive his Landrover along them to check theirwidth and construction (fieldnotes, *) March '((.).

36 Shops on former Longdale farm are known locally as kwaBhani, referring to Bunny Richards, who onceowned that farm – other examples like kwaRoy or‘kwaSheppards’ (‘at Roy’s’or‘at Sheppard’s’) occur frequently.

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37 Elsewhere, farm buildings were turned into schools or clinics. This is not new. Occupants of earlierresettlements still lament the destruction of farm infrastructure, echoing larger debates pitting anti-colonialrestitution against developmental appeals to productive redistribution.

38 ‘To think with ruins of empire is to emphasize less the artefacts of empire as dead matter ... than to attendto their re-appropriations and strategic and active positioning within the politics of the present’ (Stoler'((,: *+.).

39 While theories of affect find an antecedent in Williams’s ‘structures of feeling’ (*+--), Gell finds aprecursor in Mauss’s The gift (*+)/ [*+'0]), and Latour’s approach can be seen ‘as a partial throwback tostructuralism’ because ‘what matters may often not be the entities themselves ... but rather the network ofagents and the relationships between them’ (Miller '((): **).

40 Even those for whom ancestors can only be evil spirits, Mweya wetsvina, must sometimes respond toancestral demands, as when Chief Chikwanda was obliged to contribute to ancestral events in '((), despitehis own apostolic faith.

41 D. Miller, - March '((-, www.materialworldblog.com.42 M. Holbraad, / March '((-, www.materialworldblog.com.43 D. Miller, */ December '((. and / March '((-, M. Holbraad, / March '((-, www.materialworldblog.com.44 Fieldnotes, '* July '((/.45 Such as when missions were deliberately sited close to cult shrines in the Matopos (Ranger *+++).46 A similar argument has been debated about the notion of ‘indigenous’ peoples (Barnard '((.; Kuper

'((0).

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Tombes, ruines et appartenance : vers une anthropologie de la proximité

Résumé

A partir de matériaux ethnographiques recueillis autour du Lac Mutirikwi, dans le sud du Zimbabwe, cetarticle explore la façon dont la présence affective de tombes et de ruines, matérialisant les occupations etinteractions présentes et passées avec le paysage (institutions coloniales et postcoloniales, ancienscombattants, chefs, spirites et fermiers blancs), s’intrique dans une complexe concurrence locale autour del’autochtonie et de l’appartenance, tout en relevant d’une reconfiguration plus large de l’autorité et de laforce de l’État. Pour situer ces affirmations, discours et pratiques très contestés dans le contexte de laredéfinition nationale de la citoyenneté et de l’appartenance formulé par la rhétorique de « l’histoirepatriotique » du ZANU-PF, l’auteur explore comment ces rivalités se manifestent à travers la matérialité dumilieu. Bien que l’argument central soit le rôle éminent des tombes, « mapa » ancestrales aussi bienqu’inhumations récentes, dans les revendications de la terre et de l’autorité, l’article sera principalementconsacré à la façon dont des notions différentes de l’appartenance, se chevauchant et s’interpénétrant, sontéveillées, contraintes et structurées par la matérialité des lieux, mettant ainsi l’accent sur la proximité entrediscours et pratiques découlant de la nature partagée des paysages matériels. Dans cette veine, les ruines ettombes datant de l’occupation passée par les Blancs et de leurs interventions dans le paysage coexistentavec les appels renouvelés des clans locaux à se réapproprier les territoires ancestraux dans les terresoccupées, et se mêlent à ceux-ci. Plus largement, le but théorique de cet article est de contribuer aux récentsdébats sur la matérialité et sur le prétendu « virage ontologique » de l’anthropologie, afin de plaider pourque l’on s’intéresse moins à une « différence ontologique radicale » et davantage aux rapprochementsmatériels, historiques et conceptuels

Joost Fontein is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. His research explores thepolitics of landscapes, things, and materialities in Zimbabwe. His book The silence of Great Zimbabwe:contested landscapes and the power of heritage was published by UCL Press in '((.. He is founder of the bonescollective research group and Editor of Journal of Southern Africa Studies.

Social Anthropology, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Edinburgh, CMB, &(a George Square,

Edinburgh EH% 'LD, UK. [email protected]

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