Zimbabwe’s consolidation as a gatekeeper state

Julia Gallagher

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Cooper’s gatekeeper state theory provides a powerful way to read recent Zimbabwean politics, but the country also challenges his assumptions about both the elite-led nature of gatekeeping, and deterministic assumptions about its direct emergence from colonialism. Drawing on ordinary Zimbabweans’ perspectives I make two arguments. First, I show how consolidation of Zimbabwe’s ‘gate' has been shaped by events and contingent reactions to them since 1980, complicating Cooper’s focus on the immanence of colonial structures. Second, I show how consolidation has been achieved through popular ideas of and engagement with the outside world. This has been done in reaction to the increasing solidity and narrowness of the gate – in the ways Zimbabweans themselves work around it – but also in a shift in the ways Zimbabwean people think about the legitimacy of gatekeeping.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439-454
Number of pages16
JournalThird World Thematics
Issue number3
Early online date8 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Zimbabwe
  • Frederick Cooper
  • Gatekeeper State

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