I have blogged this before but thought it would be interesting to reblog.
When “Back Home” isn’t England: making visible the memories, lives and experiences of some white women in Rhodesia
When I ponder on my choice of topic for this dissertation, I remember an incident that makes me reflect on my place, as a white woman and a member of a minority ethnic group, in Rhodesia. This is in 1976 on a tourist bus in Greece – somewhere between Athens and Delphi. An Austrian man, sitting next to me on the bus, is highly sceptical that any white people who are not British are settled in Rhodesia. I feel affronted and defensive that this stranger can, so arbitrarily, dismiss my background. This bewildering sense of being unseen, feeling unseen, is an experience Adrienne Rich expresses as psychic disequilibrium: ‘When someone … describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing’ (in Rosaldo 1989:ix) I understand that this is my experience.
There is an actual moment when I choose the topic for this dissertation – to explore the memories, lives and experiences of white, non-British women immigrants into Rhodesia. In November 1996 I decide to go home to Zimbabwe. I am feeling homesick and miss my family. The idea of using the time I am there to research the experiences of these women, with whom I share a common background, comes to me. I approach Dr Philip Moore (at Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia) and he is enthusiastic. This, in retrospect, is when I realise the idea has been simmering in the background of my life not only since the bus trip in Greece, but since I was a young girl, questioning my ‘otherness’ in school and in the Rhodesian society. I realise this is the haunting space into which I seldom look, the moments of ‘psychic disequilibrium’. I wonder if it is the same for the other women, and if they will speak to me about these things. As the idea develops in my mind I make the decision to go and to find out what I can.