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Imagining Change, Imaginary Futures: “Conditions of Possibility” in Pre-Independence Southern Rhodesia, 1959–1963

  • Rory Pilossof and Gary Rivett

Abstract

This article invites historians to think more critically about the language, narratives, and tropes historians use to identify, describe, and explain processes of change. By doing so, we raise questions about the possibility of historicizing ideas and experiences of change. The suitability of historians’ descriptive and explanatory tools and frameworks for understanding one of the most important aims of historical scholarship is often very limited. We ponder the extent to which historians’ identification of historical change correlates with how historical actors imagined, experienced, and identified change. Starting from the perspective of the latter enables us to examine how far “change” exists prior to its embedding in the (sometimes conflicting) narratives, discourses, and practices of contemporaries. This article seeks to develop the concepts of “critical junctures” and “discursive thresholds.” While both concepts are used in social science research and literary studies, they have rarely been paired together. We combine them because they help relate the importance of events to change and the discourses surrounding them. As a case study, this article looks at a magazine titled Property and Finance, which was published in Southern Rhodesia (1956–77) and edited by Wilfred Brooks. Brooks’s editorials and political commentary offer an opportunity to consider broad questions of change, imagined futures, and discursive engagements with the political and social developments underway.

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Social Science History
  • ISSN: 0145-5532
  • EISSN: 1527-8034
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