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Jana Frey | 14.06.2018 | 871 Aufrufe | Interviews

Bryan Kauma: “Selling the colony”: Propaganda and the making of Southern Rhodesia society, 1890-1979

Lisa Maskell Fellowships at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

In 2014, the Gerda Henkel Foundation initiated a scholarship programme supporting young humanities scholars from Africa and Southeast Asia in honour of the foundation's founder, Lisa Maskell. It is the largest international support programme for PhD students in the history of the Foundation. The Lisa Maskell Fellowships aim to strengthen universities in the partner countries, to counter the outflow of qualified young scholars and to ensure the doctoral students enjoy excellent academic training.

In the following months, L.I.S.A. will publish interviews with the Lisa Maskell Fellows from Stellenbosch University in South Africa, in which they will talk about their research projects as well as their experiences during their academic career and the Lisa Maskell fellowship.

In the first installment, we welcome Bryan Kauma from Zimbabwe. After graduating from the University of Zimbabwe, he started his PhD in History with the thesis “Selling the colony”: Propaganda and the making of Southern Rhodesia society, 1890-1979 at Stellenbosch University in 2018.

Lisa Maskell Fellow Bryan Kauma from Zimbabwe

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"Diversion of the population from the immediate political reality and historic narrative"

L.I.S.A.: Bryan Kauma, what is the state of the humanities in Zimbabwe, your home country?

Bryan Kauma: To the best to my knowledge, the humanities are fragmented and heavily contested, with disciplinary conflicts between the social sciences, the arts and the humanities over research methodology. Added to this, the humanities witnessed a huge blow from the previous political administration’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects). The focus on STEM subjects - while arguing for a modern economic trajectory - had the underlying motif of a diversion of the population from the immediate political reality and historical narrative. The humanities are being encouraged to forge synergies to remain economically relevant as more and more funds are being routed towards funding STEM related projects.

"Education is viewed as a panacea to the families’ problems"

L.I.S.A.: Have you ever encountered problems in the realization of your academic career?

Bryan Kauma: The greatest challenge has always been funding my academic career. This is made worse by growing social responsibilities that mount with each passing year, and attainment of each qualification, as socially, education is viewed as a panacea to the families’ problems. While the need to solve these growing problems acts as motivation towards improving one’s academic career, it is equally an alienating process that distances one from their close family and this can adversely affect the quality of one’s academic performance. Fortunately, at this stage I have a supportive team from the history department, and a superb supervisor who encourages me to never forget life beyond academics. 

"The political narrative introduced an economic recovery mechanism"

L.I.S.A. What is your PhD project about and what got you interested in the chosen topic to begin with?

Bryan Kauma: My thesis is about the role of agricultural propaganda in the development of Southern Rhodesian society and economy. Since I was a young child, I have always had a vested interest in the media (I worked part-time at a radio station after my A’ Level studies) as well as in the science of propaganda and how it influences our social palate. In 2016 in Zimbabwe, the political narrative introduced an economic recovery mechanism known as “command agriculture”, whose broadcast was of key interest to me when comparing the media coverage against the actual work on the ground in various districts across the country. Further study revealed to me that the motif of media presence in agriculture is not new and hence motivated me to trace early agricultural development in the region.

"Initially, the culture shock hit me hard"

L.I.S.A.: What has your experience at Stellenbosch been like? Have there been any differences to the University of Zimbabwe and possibly other institutions you have previously attended?

Bryan Kauma: Stellenbosch has been mind-blowing. Initially, the culture shock hit me hard, from the social to the academic techniques employed here, nothing I had been through adequately prepared me for this experience. It has been a filling experience getting to engage and interact with multiracial and diverse ethnical audiences, learning from first hand testimonies experiences from not only across Africa, but the world.

"There is political and economic uncertainty"

L.I.S.A.: What are the opportunities in Zimbabwe to pursue different degree options (BA/MA/PhD)?

Bryan Kauma: It would be remise to say that there are no opportunities to pursue an academic a career in Zimbabwe, however, there is political and economic uncertainty that is a huge factor when one plans to pursue an academic career. Added to this, these institutions have limited international exposure which adversely limits the voice of the local students.

"I would desire to return to the classroom"

L.I.S.A.: What are your plans concerning your future career once you have obtained your PhD?

Bryan Kauma: I aim to continue with research pursuits through a post-doctoral fellowship where I will continue to make ground-breaking contributions. I would also desire to return to the classroom where I will share my research with students, and be an energetic faculty member contributing positively to the development of the arts and social sciences.

Bryan Kauma has answered the questions in written form.

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