Postmodernism and Architecture in Zimbabwe Postmodernism as a

Postmodernism
and Architecture in Zimbabwe

Postmodernism
as a movement, was initiated in the middle of the twentieth century, as a
response to the opposition of architectural modernism. Albeit, the name
postmodernism has been quite often used by many scholars in the 50s and 60s,
the concept or the movement as postmodernism still cannot be said to have materialized
until toward the mid- 70s “when claims for the existence of this diversely
social and cultural phenomenon began to harden within and across a number of
different cultural areas and academic disciplines” (Connor, 1989). As Jameson mentioned
out in 1988, the movement was more noticeably evident and clear in the architectural
field, where it was portrayed as a new form and idea of modern-day building
that returned to the past culture and tradition. In architecture around 70s,
postmodernism was used as a description of all the designs and styles that
rejected modernism. In-fact so many broader meanings were expressed to the team
by Paolo Portoghesi, in 1982 who further defined postmodern in architecture as those
designs that break the modern banning in opposition to the idea of historic
reference, whether with ironic self-commentary or intensely with traditional
earnestness (Kolb, 1990).With these rapid changes and also with the effects of
mixture of the modern materials, styles, and the perceptions of the combination
of the built elements, our modern residential buildings have now appeared in
different forms, and somehow have certain desirable features. (Best and
Kellner, 1998: 45)

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Postmodernism
and Zimbabwe after Independence

Most
likely future Zimbabweans will look back to the years between 1960 and 1990 as
a golden age of historical writing. Many works about the past have been
published in these three decades than in the preceding three centuries. Focus
for the study of Zimbabwean history unearthed not only at home but in several other
countries. The reasons for this boom of scholarship seem fairly obvious. In the
years between the tragedy of Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe’s triumphant emergence
from prison, historians of many different tendencies saw their research as a functional
political tool in fighting against unfairness( Riko, 1999).

 

Initially, we need to look at the
socio-cultural dimension of postmodernist point of view of development in
Zimbabwe. Like any other African country, Zimbabwe in this epoch of
information ascendancy is inevitably losing its cultural dominance and identity
to the western cultural influence. Postmodernism is increasingly eroding the
art, language, custom and the mode of dressing in African societies. There is a
new trend of ever more novel seeming goods from clothing to music (Riko and
Gwatau, 2011). The postmodern society is emphasising its own offensive characteristics
from murkiness and sexually explicit material to mental squalor and overt
expressions of social and political disobedience, which rise above things that
might have been perceived at the most extreme moments of high modernism. Worth mentioning
here is that Zimbabwe is still grappling with the harmful effect of
globalization. The effect of globalization on Zimbabwe today, as other parts of
Africa, cannot be quantified as it has influenced almost every aspect of life
in the African society (Qurix, 2007).

 

The adoption of western
culture through social networks such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and
the universal use of the internet has and will continue to erode Zimbabwe
culturally, socially, and mentally. Zimbabwean youths of modern day find it hard
to dress modestly particularly in our higher centres of learning. The type of
music and films they are watching is negatively affecting their attitude, behaviour,
identity and mode (Chokora, 2005). The propagation of this negative culture
through globalization is unfavourably affecting Zimbabwe’s development. Post-
modernism has without a doubt introduced globalization which is an influential
force for the improvement in the material well being of human kind that would assist
developing countries to generate better economic environment to increase ascendancy
into the information age, improve the availability of technology, speed
development and improve global harmony but its effects on the economic, social,
cultural and political nerves of developing countries such as Zimbabwe cannot
be over emphasized (Rapport, 2010).

 

As Harvey takes us through “The passage from
modernity to post-modernity in contemporary culture”, in Chapter he highlights the Marxian account of capitalist modernization. Harvey
puts out much of Marx’s argument on capital, tracing the likelihood of profit
back to the division and isolation of labour. Harvey here explains many
contemporary characteristics of capitalist production — urban organization,
the fluidity and ephemerality of corporate locations, the steady drive to
gradually rationalize production — to these basic aspects of the capitalist
mode of production (Harvey, 1992). The Zimbabwean economy
is as hitherto seen as a mono-cultural or monolithic economy; an economy generally
agricultural-based and practically unproductive. The economy of Zimbabwe is no
doubt one of the major contributors in the Southern African region due to its
size and the huge availability of both human natural and agricultural resources
(Omosso, 2016). The presence of Zimbabwe on the political and economic map of Africa
has really created opportunities for ready market where goods and services
could be easily transferred to the capitalist west for their development. In
the postmodern civilization Zimbabwe would find it hard to carry out such
relation be it economically or politically as a result of it’s over dependence
on the capitalist west. It is in fact almost impossible for Zimbabwe to compete
in the global community due to its over dependency on the capitalist west for
foreign investments. Globalization has actually made it easy for International
financial institutions and multi-national companies to be big players in the
African economy. They impose African economic policies as most African leaders in
our day rely on the United States of America, Britain, China and the like for
their economic development (Jameson, 1991).

In
chapter five of his book, David Harvey captures the “Marxian account of capitalist modernization.” Marxist
scholars believe that, postmodernism is allied with late capitalism coupled
with the decline of state institutions. It is considered a response to
contemporary capitalism which is in the course of an expansionist cycle and
producing new commodities, profusion and a wealthier lifestyle. From this
viewpoint, postmodernism can be associated with the new wave of globalization.
It is subjugated with information and communication technology which has had an
influence on the socio-political and economic transaction across national
borders. Postmodernism assumes the world to have become a global village hence
knowledge is of the essence for economic and political transactions. Businesses
are transacted through E-commerce and this has necessitated easy and effectual
international relations. It means for that reason that those with the knowledge
are powerful thus wield more influence in international transactions
(Shepherd,2003).

 

POSTMODERNISM
AND MODERNISM

 

In
chapter six of his book (POSTmodernISM
or postMODERNism?), gives an introductory
evaluation of the postmodern condition: positive in its concern for
difference for the problems of communication, for the complication and nuances
of interests, cultures, places, and the like, and useful as mimetic of the social, political,
and economic practices in society, provided
that it is accompanied by careful scrutiny. But the question that can arise is
how can one choose between these points of view from a postmodernist
perspective? It is all dependant on how one defines modernity – a word employed
with maddening uncertainty in modern discussions. For others it is something
that starts with Renaissance humanism whilst for some with Le Corbusier and
Henry Ford (Fordism). Such gaps between the signifier and signified imply that
the word modernity – like the word culture- has already deviated from its original
meanings (Wood, 1999).

 

When
we come to the issues of progress and grand narratives, as eluded by Harvey in
his book, there is a different problem. A great deal of the postmodern critique
of progress as quoted by Harvey centres on the horrors of the period 1933-1953.
Consequent tragedies get lumped together with the Holocaust, World War II and
Stalinism in a series of diminishing status. By squeezing the last fifty years
of Southern African history into a chronological way of the same type, the
results are unquestionably different. How are the people to believe in progress
after the main party, National Party victory in 1980, the Rivonia trials, decolonization
in Central Africa and Namibia, the Soweto uprising, the repeal of apartheid
laws, the Portuguese revolution,  Codesa
and the April elections of 1987? Zimbabwe, as usual, seems to march to the
rhythm of a different drummer. Just as world-weary Europeans are giving up
grand narrative, Zimbabwe brings us the final chapter to one of the biggest
narratives that ever was – one that will always be written and rewritten (Chokora,
2005).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POSTMODERNISM
AND MARXISM

 

The
global world turn away from Marxism has effects on the future of historical writing
in Zimbabwe more than any other characteristic of postmodernism, as authors
writing from a materialist or Neo-Marxist viewpoint have played so great a part
in the expression of historical scholarship during the past few decades. Main
obvious things need to be mentioned about this body of work. Neo-Marxists
working on Zimbabwean history were never apologists for Stalinism or the
defunct Soviet Union (Riko and Gwatau, 2011). Contrary to that, in various
different ways they expressed detestation for those regimes and dismissed most of
the historical scholarship that came out of Eastern Europe as imperfect. Whilst
there used to be talk of exploring ‘the laws of motion’ of Zimbabwean political
economy, in my opinion, the overriding tendency in the nineteen seventies and
early eighties was to incline in the opposite direction, towards what was then called
‘Radical Pessimism’. There existed many different schools of thought of mature
capitalism; they were prepared to accept that Zimbabwe was stuck in an
inequitable, repressive cul-de-sac (Wilson et al, 2011).

 

There
was, nevertheless, a pronounced predisposition for the neo-Marxists to
emphasise the material fundamentals of historical change to the disregard of
ideas and politics (Devetak, 2006). Even though Marxism had developed tools to
deal with the constitution of mental life, these were not much used in Zimbabwe.
The outcome was history that seemed like economic determinism, however much its
authors contested it was not. It is effortless to sympathise with young
scholars resisting rustication to farms whose soils have been shattered by
previous studies or sent to pick over the tailings from a mine shaft which had
previously yielded up its richest ore. Postmodern concepts promise something
new in Zimbabwe (Usman, 2000).

 

There
are also other local factors may hinder development of postmodernist research
in Zimbabwe. Harvey mentions about the attitude of ‘ironic detachment’ which
Baudrillard acknowledges in politics is not easy to develop in this politically
charged, extremely divided society. The disenchant of European ex-communists is
easy to comprehend. It is not so easy to enunciate yourself disillusioned by
the death of oppression. And there is still much ado.

Through
postmodernism comes sensitive conscious of difference and differences. Harvey
goes on to quote some scholars and critiques of Neo-Marxist which say that its
history was not very good at difference. Even as it proliferated classes, under-classes
and fractions of classes, it however still remained resolutely unresponsive to
distinctions of race and culture.

The
Shona ethnic identity was treated as a prime example of the invention of
tradition (Omosso, 2016).

 

Cultivating
difference also has its bad points – bad points which no Zimbabwean mass needs
to be reminded of. Harvey also mentions that Liberals and Marxists in their own
peculiar ways purported to see through difference to a common human condition
which anyone might articulate or understand. Some postmodern poses substitute
this with “opacity of otherness, whose corollary is that only the other may speak
for herself/himself.” While this opacity stretches to ethnicity and culture,
the intellectual ghost of oppression and injustice walks again (Jameson, 1991).

 

Proviso
postmodernism is related with late capitalism occasioned by globalization,
then, the benefits to Zimbabwe as a whole becomes dubious. According to how I
have understood from different scholars mentioned by Harvey, postmodernism
assumes that power and knowledge are mutually exclusive but given that
sovereignty is not fixed and can be affected by intervening components such as
globalization, then one can argue that Zimbabwe has lost its sovereignty in the
postmodern world. Implementation and policy-making which till then used to be
under the supervision of states is now under the management of World Trade
Organization (WTO). The most noteworthy effect is that, not only Zimbabwe, but African
states as a whole are not represented in the world trade organization thus
their interest are not well thought-out and brought to bear on policies that
concerns issues of international economic relations.

 

In
chapter 8 of the book The conditions of postmodernity, Harvey talks about
Fordism in terms of two primary features:
not just the de-skilled, recurring, rationalized industrial production allied
with Taylor’s methodologies, but as well as the control over the private aspects of workers’ lives that
produce the proper ideological stances favourable to the expansion of the
then-current mode of capitalist production. 

 

The
postmodern world can be seen to encourage capital flight, labour migration and
travels. Cross border buy and sell in the postmodern era has increased the
Gross Domestic Product of United States, Germany and Japan. The benefits of
postmodernism however are not evenly distributed. Countries such as Zimbabwe
which delays behind in communication and information technology revolutions are
not a part of the beneficiaries. This could mean postmodern world entails a new
form of neo-colonialism for African countries in general(Chokora,2005: 77).

In
addition, low-skilled workers experience as safety grounds are eroded. Zimbabwe
has had an elevated level of unskilled workers and this has negatively affected
them adversely. During the past two decades, those who are skilled are not
fairly comfortable and this has augmented brain drain in the country. Consequently
advanced capitalist countries gain at the same time as Zimbabwe and other third
world countries are at the losing end.

 

The
postmodern world has mostly benefited those countries that are more advanced in
terms of industrialization and most improved their information and
communication technology infrastructure whereas the losers are those that achieved
less in these respects (Chokora, 2005). We cannot only speak of Zimbabwe in
this case, but also African countries are experiencing more poverty in the
postmodern world more than what was obtained before this era. The global wealth
that is generated is not distributed commonly. This is by virtue of the lack of
capacity by these Africa countries to compete positively with advanced
countries. As a whole, the postmodern world has not yielded encouraging results
to Zimbabwe. In fact, she has remained needy due to an imbalanced global
economic system (Wilson et al, 2011).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Best
S, & Kellner, D. (1998). Postmodern theory: Critical interrogations.
New York: Curtham Press.

Chokora,
B A. (2005). Changing urban housing form and organization in Zimbabwe: Lessons
for community planning, Planning Perspectives: 69-96

 

Harvey, D. (1992). The Conditions of Postmodernity.
An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change.Blackwell Publishers,
Oxford

 

Jameson,
F. (1991). Postmodernism, or,The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,
Durham: Duke University Press.

 

Ozaslan
N, Akalin, A & Wilson C. (2011). Postmodernism and consumer culture:
Image-production via residential architecture in post-1980s Turkey, African Journal
of Business Management Vol. 5(7), pp. 2597-2606

 

Riko,
B. (1999). Economic Growth in Zimbabwe after Rhodesia. An Enquiry into the growth of Zimbabwean Agro-based economy within
Southern Africa. Unpublished

 

Usman,
Y.B. (2000) “Zimbabwean  Realities and
Options to the Year 2010” In the Guardian Newspaper 9th, 10th and 14th July,
2000.

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