Allen Isaacman, Regents Professor of History, University of Minnesota
Abstract: From its earliest days, the field of African history has sought to render visible people whose past has been in the shadows of history. Despite efforts of scholars to open up new areas of inquiry, expand their theoretical perspectives and widening the lens of possible sources, there is much that still remains obscured. The challenge of invisibility poses significant epistemological and methodological problems for contemporary scholars. These silences are particularly acute in the literature on the clandestine labor migration from Mozambique to colonial Zimbabwe of more than 2 million Mozambicans. Conspicuously absent from voluminous official reports are accounts describing the lived experience of the trekkers many of whom walked hundreds of miles and faced innumerable dangers. Most scholars also understate or overlook the pre-history of cross border migrations and the long tradition of cognitive mapping that helped to guide these labor migrants. In omitting these issues researchers literally jumped over history.