P194 – Of Gay Struggle and Resistance in Africa: Contesting Queer Politics
8 July, 17:30-19:00

Chacha Babere / Laikipia University, kenya
Mwamutsi Ningala Maurine / Egerton University


The Post-cold war widening with regards to the freedom of the media, the press, accompanied by the rise of international and local NGOs, the increasingly sophisticated tourism industry, the widespread use of the internet and social media, as well as trade liberalisation have produced a globalisation in Africa which in turn has accelerated an internationalisation of sexual rights and identities, resuscitated the feminist movement, increased demands for basic equality, and above all, escalated new sexual orientation in many urban areas of Africa. Interestingly, in tune to these changes, the African urban youth have in turn deployed music and clothing styles in order to form new subcultural youth identities, which are seen as acts of resistance against a dominant culture. Today, sexual relationships are being socially constructed as an appropriate expression of intimacy, but also as a statement about a particular kind of modern identity. In this session, we intend to view globalisation as one of the most powerful forces shaping the modern world and a key idea explaining the transition of the human society into the third millennium. People consider globalisation a tidal wave sweeping over the world. Consequently, today one can take different perspectives on what it means to be male and female in modern African contexts; because there are different ways in which sexualities have been constructed, performed, resisted, transformed and transgressed, thereby producing tensions between traditions and modernity.

De la lutte gay et la résistance en Afrique : contestation queer politique.

L’élargissement dans un contexte de l’après-guerre froide, de la liberté des médias, de la presse, du développement des ONG internationales et locales, ainsi que de l’industrie touristique, l’utilisation généralisée des médias Internet et des réseaux sociaux ainsi que la libéralisation du commerce a précipité la mondialisation en Afrique, qui à son tour, a accéléré l’internationalisation des droits sexuels et identitaires, ressuscité le mouvement des femmes, favorisé les revendications en faveur de l’égalité , et par-dessus tout, il a entraîné une escalade du débat sur une orientation sexuelle nouvelle dans de nombreuses zones urbaines d’Afrique.   Fait intéressant, en écho à ces changements, la jeunesse urbaine africaine a, à son tour, déployé de nouveaux styles musicaux et vestimentaires, informant de nouvelles identités considérées comme des actes de résistance contre une culture dominante. Aujourd’hui, les relations sexuelles sont en cours de construction sociale comme une expression appropriée de l’intimité, mais aussi comme une revendication d’une identité moderne. Dans cette session, nous avons l’intention de considérer la mondialisation comme l’une des forces les plus puissantes qui façonnent le monde moderne et comme une idée clé expliquant la transition de la société humaine dans le troisième millénaire. Les gens considèrent la mondialisation comme un raz-de-marée s’étant abattu sur le monde. Par conséquent, aujourd’hui, on peut parler différemment de ce que cela signifie d’être mâle et femelle dans les contextes africains modernes; parce qu’il y a différentes façons dont les sexualités sont construites, réalisées, évitées, transformées et transgressées; produisant ainsi des tensions entre traditions et modernités.

Paper 1

Riro Samuel / St. Augustine University, Tanzania

Marriage, and the Anthropology of Fertility Control in Western Kenya

Customary laws in Kenya have been subject to considerable interference or change by modernity so that in fact, in its application to marriage, this law has generated controversies that are worthy of examination. In this paper I shed light upon woman-to-woman marriage, which I view here as a system that radically disrupt[ed] male domination and allowed women to traverse gender barriers in order to rectify reproductive, social and economic problems. On the other hand, paper examines the institution within the framework of colonial and post-colonial judicial systems and in the context of African customary law. It is argued here that colonial authorities took several ineffective measures to abolish the practice and even the post-colonial state seems to have taken an even more ambivalent attitude towards the practice, especially as far as rights of the children were concerned. Critical questions in this paper revolves around understanding the anthropology of this marriage. Woman-to-woman marriage is a predominantly African institution. This form of marriage is an unfamiliar subject to most people outside Africa and even Africans themselves. It is only vaguely understood by historians and social scientists. It remains relatively obscure, and in family studies discourse, the topic is pushed to the extreme margins by an historical fixation on western nuclear families as a universal ideal.

Paper 2

Lease Bryce / Royal Holloway, University of London

Contesting homophobia at Dak’Art, The Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary African Art in Dakar 2014

In spite of rising homophobia in Senegal and Africa as a whole there were several works at Dak’Art, The Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary African Art in Dakar 2014, that elaborated on queer issues. Both artists of Senegalese and other nationalities took this occasion to show art that openly contested homophobia and discussed same-sex sexualities. Some of these works were selected by the curators for the international exhibition, and some were part of so called Off-exhibitions, arranged by independent galleries related to but outside the actual Biennial. At the independent gallery Raw Material Company (RMC) there was an Off-exhibition called Precarious Imaging: Visibility and Media Surrounding African Queerness. However, this exhibition was closed by the Senegalese state after RMC was attacked by a group of religious fundamentalists. The leader of a Senegal-based Islamic organization went on TV to demand the closure of all exhibit ions related to homosexuality. Dak’Art’s general secretary Babacar Mabaye Diop skirted association with the closed exhibition by saying that the biennial was not responsible for collateral exhibitions, i.e. the off-exhibitions, but only for works in Dak’Art itself, and the works at the biennial were not affected. In my presentation I will describe and interpret the artworks at RMC and at Dak’Art and discuss how queer art at the biennial exhibition was protected by the international attention attributed to this global arena.

Paper 3

Wallin Wictorin Margareta / Linnaeus University, Sweden

From RuPaul to the Cape Flats: Drag and Glocal Queer Politics’

The Miss Gay Western Cape (MGWC) pageant held annually in Cape Town is a platform for queers of colour to perform in a secure environment without exploitation. As part of an AHRC-funded project to document this pageant, I am seeking to unpack the methodological questions that have arisen from my attempts to forge bridges between Western queer theory and local articulations of gender identity and alternative sexualities, the relationship between post-apartheid South African national identity and global gay rights, new postcolonial directions in queer theory and the sexual geographies of Cape Town that are bounded by race and economic privilege. A number of scholars have recently considered significant connections between expressions of ethnicity and sexuality, and sexuality and citizenship in South African contexts. Given that gay rights have been at the heart of the narratives around public culture and nationhood in the initial transitional period of post‐apartheid South Africa, I find it imperative to consider how sexuality has played a large part in the construction of the ‘Rainbow Nation’, a name which already implies an intersection between multiracialism and gay rights, by focusing on recent studies that have offered new understandings of social and cultural oppression that link postcolonial and queer theories in a self-conscious and nuanced mode that are sensitive to the particularities of local contexts.

Paper 4

Mwamutsi Maurine Ningala / Egerton University

Risk and Pleasure in Sexual Discourse: The Phenomenon of Global Youth Marketing and Problematics of being Male or Female in Kenya

Kenya burgeoning commercial and the public sector have been embraced by global changes and today have reached the highest point of capitalism and has became a preserve or marketplace of sexual information, enticing eager audiences with expert ratio programs, newspaper gossip columns, foreign romance novels , Western pornographic films and bikini-clad cover girls. The expansion of the sexual marketplace serves to further codify the category of youth, as development agents and commercial advertisement seek to appeal and to shape its young audience. Using 150 confiscated letters from five secondary schools in western Kenya, I intend to focus on the intersection of local transformations, global processes, and structures of inequalities surrounding issues of sexuality, particularly gender, sexual and reproductive health, regulation, courtship and marriage. Likewise, I will explore how regimes of regulation and discourses of sexuality have shifted since independence and more recently during the AIDS epidemic.
Theoretical questions revolve around how differentiated actors appropriate increasingly accessible, yet often contradictory, images and discourses of sexuality into their everyday debates, conversations, and ideas of sexual relationships. I highlight the ways in which various state, family, health, and local agents attempt to regulate meanings of sexuality and how such struggles are connected to increased anxiety stimulated by sexual health concerns, commercialization of the local economy, and Kenya’s connection to global cultural flows.

Paper 5

Nyangena Kenneth / Laikipia University

The dilemma of being transgender in Kenya: revisiting the Audrey syndrome

Using the case study of Audrey –a Kenyan transgender I intend to discuss how the processes of liberalization of sexuality and the increasing equality in sexual behavior with regards to pluralist sexuality, homosexuality, infidelity and prostitution has changed the meaning of being male and female in Africa. I argue that while western countries are ahead and in a process of both gender equalization and sexual liberalization, Kenya is characterized by a shift from traditional gender equality to liberal gender polarization. Born male, Audrey’s sudden female mannerisms were too much for many Kenyans to comprehend, making him the butt of many a mean joke. Some feebly explained it away as being gay, before breaking into uncontrollable sniggers every time she passed them. It is no surprise that she subsequently withdrew into a shell. Therefore being a transsexual in Kenya is not something that can be ignored or suppressed forever. Unlike the fascinations of the cross dresser or the partially altered transgenderist, the absolute compulsion of classical transsexualism is a matter of life and death in Kenya. This paper therefore intends to the dilemma of being transgender in Kenya.

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