Partisan Citizenship and its Discontents: Precarious Possession and Political Agency on Harare City's Expanding Margins
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On the margins of Zimbabwe’s expanding capital Harare, the ruling ZANU–PF party promotes a view of access to urban land, housing and security as ‘gift’, conditional on demonstrations of party loyalty. This article discusses contestation over this form of partisan citizenship, making the following broader arguments. First, it argues that the notion of partisan citizenship draws attention to the role of party political affiliation as a source of differential entitlements in illiberal democracies, countering a tendency to emphasise ethno-regional, racialized or religious communal identities as the primary sources of graduated citizenship in Africa. Second, it casts clientelist subjection as a contextual and contentious domain of ideas and action, rather than presenting it as cultural persistence or reducing it solely to material bargaining. Third, the article uses the Zimbabwean case to caution against a tendency within debates over southern urbanism to celebrate land occupations and informal construction as political resistance and route to full citizenship. In these ways, the article offers partisan citizenship as a means of taking forward debates over re-configurations of citizenship in Africa’s illiberal democracies and the politics of precarious peripheries in the urbanising global South more broadly.