Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Politics of Knowledge Production & Recognition

"Sam's major scholarship was in the field of agrarian studies. Always unassuming, he seldom talked of his own scholarly work unless someone raised it first. For me that occasion came in 2008 when the London Review of Books invited me to write a piece on Zimbabwe. The land reform was the big issue at the time. I pulled together whatever studies on the subject I could lay my hands on. Three sources stood above all others as original and reliable: one from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex, another from the University of Western Cape and then Sam’s work at the African Institute of Agrarian Studies in Harare. As I read these sources, and the press reports on their findings, I learnt something about the politics of knowledge production and its recognition in the public sphere. Two facts were crystal clear to me: one, that Sam had been several steps ahead of the others; and, two, that his work was the last to be recognized. It was almost as if the press went by a rule of thumb: when it came to ideas, the chain had to originate in a Western university, and the link go through a South African institution, before it came to an African researcher. I discussed this with Sam. He smiled, as if to say, what’s new?" - Mahmood Mamdani Remembers his Friend and Comrade Sam Moyo
"You lent your brilliance to the environmental think tank Zero, pulled us into the Senegal based Codesria and introduced us to people who wore Dashiki shirts as a form of political expression. People whose papers you had photocopied for us to read. This was before computers. It was the time of type-writers. Your scrawl was impossible to decipher, but we knew that if we didn't figure out your handwriting, there would be trouble. You could not abide intellectual laziness. On Boodle Road, in Harare's Eastlea suburb you set up the African Institute of Agrarian Studies (AIAS). It was nothing short of a bold move. This was Zimbabwe in the early 2000s when land invasions were at their apex. Nothing could deter you. Not physical threats, nor slurs to your name. And who can forget the raid of your home office in Borrowdale. You put your ubiquitous cigarette to your mouth and shook your head. 'Why did they have to mess my papers up? I had order here'. I would look at the piles and piles of papers you had and wonder what kind of order you meant. Your office was a project for a neat freak" - Bella Matambanadzo: An Ode in Memory of Chimusoro Sam Moyo
"Certainly in the last 15 years, as the debate around Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform has continued, Sam’s contributions – and those of his colleagues at AIAS – have been essential. Their district level study published in 2009 preceded our book, and set the stage for a more mature, empirically-informed debate that (sometimes) has followed. Sam has often been inaccurately pigeon-holed as being on one ‘side’ or another. But his scholarship is far more sophisticated than this. In Zimbabwe’s land debate nearly everyone at different times disagreed with him, but they all listened. Whether inside the state and party, among opposition groups or with the World Bank and other donors, no one could ignore what Sam had to say. And his influence in seeking a more sensible line has been enormous. But Sam’s scholar activism was not just focused on Zimbabwe. He was frequently invited by governments, social movements and others around the world, and particularly in southern Africa. His experiences in Nigeria, teaching at Calabar and Port Harcourt universities, were influential too, giving him a wider perspective than many. His on-going contributions to South Africa’s land debates have been important also, as he shared Zimbabwe’s lessons. More broadly still, he was central to a wider engagement with agrarian studies from the global South, offering a challenge to those who argued that the classical agrarian question is dead. From the perspective of peasants, social movements and struggles across the global South, it certainly is not. Together with Paris Yeros in Brazil and Praveen Jha in India, and as part of a wider collective of Southern scholars linked to the journal Agrarian South, he has made the case for a revived agrarian studies, in the context of land grabs and intensifying capitalist exploitation across rural areas" - Ian Scoones: A Tribute to Sam Moyo – A Giant of Agrarian Studies
"In 2006, I received a surprise invitation from the Transnational Institute, which is based in Amsterdam. They wanted a person, preferably a Zimbabwean scholar to give the inaugural lecture held in memory of Basker Vashee, their former long-time director, who had also hailed from Zimbabwe. They invited me to come and give the lecture. Totally out of the blues for me! They explained to me that I had been recommended by Professor Sam Moyo. Apparently, Professor Sam Moyo had been selected to give the lecture, but for some reason that he could not control, he was unable to attend. So he had recommended that they invite me instead. They said they had not hesitated because they trusted Sam’s word – if Sam Moyo said get Alex, we had to come and get you, they said. Such was the measure of trust and confidence that Sam Moyo enjoyed internationally. That added some pressure because then, I couldnt afford to disappoint the great Prof Sam Moyo, could I? That would be a betrayal! But here is the point. Prof. Sam Moyo and I had never actually met. I “knew” him through his great works on land, which I had relied upon in my own studies, as indeed many have done, and more will do for generations to come. But I had no idea that he knew me or my work, let alone that he held me in such high regard as to recommend me to such a lofty station. I was just a little guy starting out in academia. It was truly humbling. And so I went to Amsterdam and gave the lecture. I shall dig it up – it’s probably there on the TNI website. Afterwards, he wrote thanking and congratulating me for the lecture, which apparently had been very well-received. I was pleased that I had lived up to his estimation, that I had not disappointed him. It was very humbling. I had always respected the man for his work but now my respect extended to a whole new personal level. Thus our personal relationship commenced. He was now a friend, too" - Alex Magaisa: Prof Sam Moyo: An Intellectual Icon and Fine Gentleman
"Sam was Africa’s leading intellectual voice on land and agrarian transformation. Over long periods when there was little policy interest in land reforms, he and a few other scholars kept the issues alive through rigorous empirical research and theorizing about Africa’s land and agrarian questions in the context of globalization. Throughout an intellectual career that spanned decades and produced a massive body of work, he consistently championed the rights of Africa’s smallholders as well as its landless and dispossessed communities and chronicled the struggles of agrarian social movements for equitable land rights. He followed up his research with engagements with policy makers, civil society organisations, research networks on agrarian issues as well as social movements. He was much in demand in Africa and beyond as a policy advisor on land and agrarian issues. Sam showed great courage in his robust engagement with Zimbabwe’s land reforms. He charted a course of independent research which eschewed sensationalism and illuminated the scale and significance of land redistribution represented by the Fast Track Land Reform Programme which saw over two hundred thousand Zimbabwean households acquiring land for their livelihoods. In spite of the fact that this was for a long time a very lonely undertaking, which incurred the disapproval of the different sides of the debates on Zimbabwe’s land reforms, he was much respected and admired not only within CODESRIA, but in the wider community of progressive intellectuals within the global south for his consistency and the quality of the evidence he produced to back his positions. The growing acceptance of Sam’s positions in the wider land and agrarian studies community sadly failed to give him full credit for his pivotal role in changing the debate about Zimbabwe’s land reforms" - Dzodzi Tsikata & Ebrima Sall - CODESRIA: Tribute to Professor Sam Moyo, a Great Intellectual, and a Man of Integrity


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