Framing Harm: Legal, Local and Anthropological Knowledge in the Context of Forced Migration


  • Shannon Morreira University of Cape Town



knowledge, human rights, forced migration


The southern African state of Zimbabwe, which borders South Africa, has undergone a decade of severe political and economic instability. Migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa has been extensive, and continues even with the slight improvements that Zimbabwe has seen since 2009. In this paper I use migration from Zimbabwe to South Africa as a case study through which to explore knowledge creation within the field of forced migration and human rights, and within the field of anthropology. What are the similarities and differences between local, legal and anthropological knowledge of rights violations in the context of crisis? How do individual, subjective tales of suffering and violation become, or fail to become, supposedly objective ‘evidence’, and how might legal evidence differ from Zimbabwean moral knowledge of harm? In this paper I consider the difficulties of translating experiences of violation into legal and anthropological language and knowledge.



Author Biography

Shannon Morreira, University of Cape Town

Shannon Morreira is a PhD candidate in the department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cape Town. Her recent publications are concerned with Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis and the resultant migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa. Her current research is focused on the ways in which ideas of human rights are being mobilised by Zimbabweans during the country’s political crisis.