White women and domesticity in colonial Zimbabwe, c.1890 to 1980
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The study analyses white women‟s experiences in colonial Zimbabwe in relation to domesticity. As in most new colonial territories, one of the mandates of the coloniser was to domesticate „the wild‟ (that is the indigenous populations and their environment) and make the conquered areas ideal for settlement and exploitation. The civilising mission was central to the project of domesticating the empire. The domestication of empire, however, was more complex and went beyond the mere extension of western civilisation and the taming of the physical environment. It also manifested itself in gender relations within the British Empire and derived its major characteristics from Victorian culture. In the context of gender analysis, domesticity defines women‟s proper place as the home and has a potential to restrict women‟s options. The study demonstrates that in reality, domesticity was more complex and went beyond the relegation of white women to the home or so-called private sphere. The domestic ideology, like elsewhere, took different forms within Rhodesian society and these shaped white women‟s experiences in very complex ways. White women also appropriated, challenged and deployed this ideology as well as engineered its reformulation over time. There was a continuous dialogue between ideology and white women‟s experiences. On the whole, the study inserts white women in the colonial narrative and demonstrates that there is an incomplete story on colonialism when these women are absent in this narrative. White women clearly had a huge influence on the social, economic and political development of the colonial societies and yet there has been little rigorous academic effort to appreciate their experience, roles and status particularly in colonial Zimbabwe. This thesis uses largely empirical evidence drawn from a multiplicity of primary and secondary sources such as extensive interviews, internet sources, archival records and published works on Southern Rhodesia and other parts of the British Empire.