Defending Illicit Livelihoods: Youth Resistance in Harare’s Contested Spaces


In response to incessant assaults by the Zimbabwean state’s repressive apparatus, spearheaded by the urban planning system, youth in Harare have shifted their modes of resistance. The most successful forms of resistance appear to be those that are multifarious, non‐confrontational and less docile. Empirical material from Harare suggests that the situation is best understood in the framework of more sophisticated conceptualizations of human agency and resistance than those proposed by modernist perspectives. It is shown that the resistance of the youth is about localized struggles that disrupt institutions and normalization. Arguing that the youth’s continued occupation of contested urban spaces is a result of abandoning full‐scale confrontation in favour of ‘resistance at the margins’, the article concludes that a postmodernist analysis best explains the youths’ modes of resistance.