This talk will be held virtually. Check back here for registration details.
About the Talk
The early days of the Zimbabwean state were marked with celebratory depictions of the migration and visible presence of black women in cities. Using newspaper and magazine archives, I trace a moral panic about infanticide and abortion, collapsed under the term “baby-dumping,” that soon gripped Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. This panic, which was based on a flimsy number of cases and outright fabrications, positioned teenage girls as menaces and “future prostitutes” who violated the spatial order of the new state. It unfolded in the midst of public debates about legal reforms which sought to bring black women, who had been legal minors under the colonial legal system, into full citizenship. As a result of legal reforms instituted by the new state, norms surrounding marriage, sexual relationships, and reproduction suddenly seemed malleable, maybe dangerously so.
About the Speaker
Rudo Mudiwa is an interdisciplinary scholar of race, rhetoric, and gender. She earned her PhD in Communication and Culture, with a minor in African Studies, from Indiana University, Bloomington in 2018. Her research examines the politics and promise of decolonization in Africa, an interest she developed growing up in the early years of the then new nation of Zimbabwe. Mudiwa approaches this topic by following the figure of “the prostitute” in public discourse, arguing that she is the figure that anchors public debates about how to reinvent race, urban space, and citizenship in Zimbabwe. “The prostitute” reveals the challenges–and the promise–of eclipsing the colonial order. Mudiwa’s work is grounded in archival and ethnographic research and has been funded by the Social Science Research Council. In 2019, she received the American Society for the History of Rhetoric’s Dissertation Prize. She is currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University.