[-In]tangible Heritage, Humans and the Environment: An Ethnographic Account of the Conservation of Chingoma Falls in South-eastern Zimbabwe

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[-In]tangible Heritage, Humans and the Environment: An Ethnographic Account of the Conservation of Chingoma Falls in Southeastern Zimbabwe

This study adopts a heritage site known as Chingoma Falls in Mudzami Community in southeastern rural Zimbabwe. Based on ethnographic data gathered between April 2015 and October 2018, the study hoped to understand the extent to which the concept of the imagined community helps explain the exclusion, by the government, of intangible heritage from communities in Zimbabwe. Personal observations, reflections and experiences gained while working as a heritage manager and later as an academic and a researcher in the field prompted me to carry out this study. It was during this period that I noticed an asymmetrical relationship between the government and local communities in heritage conservation. I realised that bad blood between the government and local communities stemmed from the heritage legislation which acknowledges the government as the sole legal custodian of heritage sites in Zimbabwe (see also, Sinamai 2018; Dube 2017).

Broadly, the study employs social constructionism complemented with Anderson’s theory of Imagined Community, Bandura’s theory of Social Learning and Ajzen’s theory of Planned Behaviour to gather and analyse data. The study population comprised of 57 participants drawn from Mudzami Community and the surrounding areas. Purposive and snowball sampling methods were used to select the participants. Data gathering methods such as unstructured interviews, focus group discussions, transact walks, participant observation, archival research, stories and narratives were used to gather primary and secondary data. Thematic content analysis was used to analyse the data. The study found out that intangible heritage is not given the legal protection hence it remains excluded in the designation, protection and conservation of heritage sites in Zimbabwe. It further found out that the heritage legislation is outdated and homocentric as it does not recognise the contribution of ‘other beings,’ in protecting sacred heritage sites and the environment. Thus, the study can be used as a basis for influencing heritage institutions and policy makers to consider incorporating intangible heritage and local communities in the conservation of sacred heritage sites.

The analysis of the findings of the study gives rise to the theory of cultural entropy which attempts to explain the dispersion of values between the government and local communities. The study raises fresh insights as it calls for the need to consider ‘other beings’ in the matrix of heritage conservation policies and practices in Zimbabwe. In light of the above, the study recommends the government of Zimbabwe to incorporate intangible heritage in heritage legislation as well as to re-integrate the local communities in the conservation matrix of heritage sites. Further, it is recommended that the government re-align and harmonise the heritage legislations and policies with the country’s current constitution, internationally binding conventions and charters to ensure adherence and compliance to heritage best practices. The study concludes that the failure by the government of Zimbabwe to consider and recognise intangible heritage and local communities in the mainstream heritage policies and practices is the source of conflict between itself and local communities.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • van Reisen, Mirjam, Promotor
  • Heynders, Odile, Promotor
  • Mawere, Munyaradzi, Promotor, External person
  • van Lierop-DeBrauwer, Helma, Member PhD commission
  • Dekker, M., Member PhD commission, External person
  • ter Keurs, P.J., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Ong'ayo, A.O., Member PhD commission
Award date6 Mar 2020
Place of PublicationS.l.
Publisher
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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