Banned books. Restricted speech. Student informants. According to ethnomusicologist Gadziro Gwekwerere, these are the inescapable realities of academic life in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
You would be monitored from your workplace to your home,, said Dr. Gwekwerere, who is at The New School this year as its 2011-2012 University in Exile Scholar-in-Residence. There was no freedom at all, there were even spies amongst the students.,
For more than two decades, Gwekwerere had been working in Zimbabwe and advocating for democratic reform. Although her home nation was never as safe and free as the government claimed, conditions reached a new low with a wave of political violence in 2007. Gwekwerere came under suspicion due to her political activities and her house was raided by police several times and, finally, her position at the university terminated. Out of concern for her own safety, she left Zimbabwe for Johannesburg, South Africa.
Unfortunately, President Mugabe’s influence reached across the border, making it difficult for her to teach in South Africa despite her academic training, publications, and an award from the University of Pretoria for top performing graduate students. Her experience in South Africa convinced her that she would not be free from persecution by the Zimbabwean government if she remained in Southern Africa.
The United States was an excellent option, so she applied to the Scholar Rescue Fund (SRF) fellowship program. She was awarded an SRF fellowship that provides her with partial support for Scholar-in-Residence fellowship at The New School.
The New School and the Center for Public Scholarship are grateful to the Scholar Rescue Fund and other donors who have made it possible for us to, once again, provide a place for an endangered scholar.
At The New School, Dr. Gwekwerere will continue her research on how political discourse figures in Zimbabwean folk music. In addition, she will share her expertise with students and faculty in World Music classes at Eugene Lang College and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.
New school students and faculty are invited to a reception to meet Dr. Gwekwerere on Thursday, October 6, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Lang Student Center on 55 West 13th Street. To RSVP, or for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.