Dr George H. Karekwaivanane – ‘We are not just voters, we are citizens’: Social Media, the #ThisFlag Campaign, and Insurgent Citizenship in Zimbabwe

  • Date:
  • Time: 16:00
  • Location: Baines Wing SR 1.15
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Abstract

On 19 April 2016, a day after Zimbabwe’s independence day commemorations, a young clergyman, Pastor Evan Mawarire, posted on his Facebook page an anguished monologue about the deepening economic, social and political crisis in Zimbabwe. The video quickly went viral and was soon being reported on by local and international news organisations. In the weeks that followed Mawarire and a small team began building on the unexpected popularity of his video and created a campaign that encouraged Zimbabweans citizens to speak out against the government’s mismanagement of the country. The emergence of the #ThisFlag movement and its success in co-ordinating public acts of protest like the 6 July national stay-away, fuelled debate within media and in scholarly circles about the role of social media in Zimbabwean politics. This paper uses the case study of the #ThisFlag campaign to explore whether, and under what circumstances, digital social media platforms can contribute to political expression, organisation and action. In the paper I make the case for connecting the three concepts of ‘digital spaces of contention’, ‘online artefacts of engagement’ and ‘insurgent citizenship’ as a productive approach to thinking about the ways that social media is re-shaping politics in Zimbabwe.

Biography

George H. Karekwaivanane is a Lecturer in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on two main areas a) the intersection of law and politics and b) the social, economic and political impacts on digital media in Zimbabwe. His recent publications included a monograph entitled The Struggle over State Power in Zimbabwe: Law and Politics since 1950 published by CUP, and a Special Issue on Digital publics in Africa that has just been published by the Journal of Eastern African Studies.