Professor of History Luise White Awarded National Humanities Center Fellowship

New work focuses on intricacies of the Rhodesian War.

By Rachel Wayne

In her latest full-length book project, Luise White, professor of history at the University of Florida, explores the troubled lives of white soldiers fighting to preserve rule by the white minority in Rhodesia. The book, Fighting and Writing: The Rhodesian Army at War and Post-war, has won White a fellowship with the National Humanities Center, and represents one of the few historical studies of Rhodesia (modern-day Zimbabwe).

White’s project combines oral history with archival research to tell the complicated story of Rhodesia, an unrecognized African state that emerged after its neighbor, the former British colony Zambia, gained independence. In the 1960s and 70s, Rhodesia was a political hotbed for African nationalists working to free Africa from the lingering grip of the Crown. While many historians would analyze Rhodesian history through the words of the political leaders playing on the African stage, White focuses on the people fighting for a fuzzy government amidst a culture clash.

According to her research, white Rhodesian soldiers had grown up in Africa and had many ties to its culture, leaving them torn between “idealized rural childhoods where African playmates taught them the ways of the wild” and the militant demands of counter-insurgency. Says White, “It was [their] knowledge — of African languages and culture, of tracking and hunting — that enabled them to fight African guerrillas.”

The project will be completed through White’s term as a 2016–17 fellow with the National Humanities Center in Durham, N.C. Fighting and Writing continues her significant contributions to African Studies, including her award-winning The Comforts of Home: Prostitution in Colonial Nairobi.

Image from The FN FAL Battle Rifle, by Bob Cashner, art by Steve Noon © Osprey Publishing, part of Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd.

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