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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:A tale of three dinner plates: truth and the challenges of human rights research in Zimbabwe
Author:Eppel, ShariISNI
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
Subjects:political violence
human rights
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03057070903314234
Abstract:This article provides a personal reflection on the experience of human rights reporting in Zimbabwe from 2000. It does so through the prism of a story of violence and counter violence in a rural village in Matabeleland North as it has been told to Solidarity Peace Trust researchers over the course of several months in 2008. The story, which hinges on the fate of three dinner plates, is retold here with the aim of revealing the ways in which lived experiences of violence can blur the categorical boundaries of perpetrator and victim. It sheds light on some of the complexities of histories of violence, the ways violent events are narrated by those involved and blame is attributed. Truths are often relative, or, to express this in another way, they are culturally and psychologically true, but empirically false. Such complexities are inevitably overlooked, excised or circumvented in the conventions of human rights reporting. Yet recognizing such local complexities, and appreciating the ways in which collective attribution of blame can escalate cycles of violence, is a necessary part of any process of healing. Failure to recognize these complexities can lead to well-meaning civic actors inadvertently exacerbating existing tensions instead of reconciling them. In retelling the story of the three dinner plates, the article looks forward to a process of reconciliation in Zimbabwe, which the country desperately needs in order to embrace a future of peace, justice and reconstruction. Such a process will need to include public debate at village as well as at national level, and will need to take account of the complexities of the ways in which people talk about and make sense of their own lived experiences of violence. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]