Gore Ellie / University of Birmingham
Gyamerah Akua / Columbia University
Over the past two decades, trajectories of globalisation, economic and political transformation, and technological advancement have reshaped social landscapes in Africa in complex and contradictory ways. Sexuality has acted as a critical vector of change, with hegemonic sex/gender orders being destabilised and reconfigured. In this context, same-sex sexualities have emerged as a particular site of conflict and contestation. Informed by development and HIV initiatives, as well as human rights activism, some African civil society groups have begun organising around LGBT rights. Same-sex sexualities are thus becoming both an area of intervention and a burgeoning site of political consciousness. Alongside this, there has been backlash and retrenchment, with political and religious actors mobilising against the ‘threat’ of homosexuality. Common motifs within these discourses include ideas of cultural sovereignty, ‘African’ identity, and opposition to Western imperialism. At the heart of this issue, then, is an intricate set of power struggles over the meaning of sexuality, gender, culture, and citizenship in contemporary Africa. This panel examines same-sex sexualities and intimacies in the context of these changes. It asks what are the implications of globalisation and the ‘politicisation’ of same-sex sexualities in different African contexts. It also explores concepts of ‘mobilisation’ and ’activism’, alongside culturally located ideas of queer kinship and community.
Sexualités de même sexe et intimités en Afrique contemporaine: contestation, résistance, et changement
Au cours des deux dernières décennies, la mondialisation et les progrès technologiques ont remodelé les paysages sociaux en Afrique de manière complexe. La sexualité a été un puissant vecteur de changement et a remis en question et reconfiguré l’hégémonie de l’ordre des sexes. De manière plus précise, les milieux homosexuels sont devenus des espaces de revendication, de contestation et de conscientisation politique. Des acteurs d’associations africaines, informés par la recherche et des actions au sujet du VIH, ont commencé à s’organiser pour faire respecter les droits des personnes LGBT. Face à ces actions revendicatives, la réaction de certaines personnalités politiques et religieuses a consisté à mettre en avant des arguments liés à la culture, à l’identité « africaine », à l’impérialisme occidental en se mobilisant contre la « menace » de l’homosexualité. Ces questions autour de la sexualité dans l’Afrique contemporaine révèlent une série de luttes et de revendications sur les définitions autour de la sexualité, du genre, de la culture, et de la citoyenneté. Il s’agit de rendre compte des milieux homosexuels au niveau local et d’explorer les concepts de la conscientisation et de l’activisme avant tout comme une pratique sociale.
Magenya Sheena / Coalition of African Lesbians
Music as a tool of resistance in influencing popular culture away from hetero-conforming power structures in Kenya
This paper intends to investigate the role that popular culture, in the way of music, is playing in transforming and resisting (or not) ideas and perceptions of what African culture and tradition are in Kenya. Gender and sexuality continue to be policed in modern day Africa, but the structures of influential power have shifted and are not all ancient and old traditional power structures and gatekeepers who ensure that women and men conform to a unitary idea of sexuality and gender. At an age where patriarchs have been replaced by pop songs that police how women’s bodies should be dressed and undressed, how women should be loved and unloved, and how we should interact with bodies and personalities that do not conform to mainstream and accepted constructions of gender and sexuality-this kind of subversion is necessary resistance by lesbian women, seeking to become visible in this space, and how we should interact with bodies and personalities that do not conform to mainstream and accepted constructions of gender and sexuality. This paper would like to investigate at this point HOW popular culture reinforces and resists colonial ideas around the sexuality and gender of women, as well as queer and trans-identifying Kenyan women and men, and why we need a conversation about culture and tradition outside its age old understanding of pre-colonial practises and behaviour patterns. It’s re-invention if you may.
Gyamerah Akua / Columbia University
Gore Ellie / University of Birmingham
Saving the ‘‘African homosexual’’: Discourse and interventions on LGBT rights in Africa
The politicization of LGBT rights has been a key feature of international politics over the past five years. Within Western political and media discourses on LGBT rights, much attention has focused on Africa. Here, Africa is characterised as homophobic, a continent where same-sex sexualities face violence, oppression, and state-sponsored persecution, with frequent citations of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda and the same-sex marriage ban in Nigeria. Drawing on political statements, press releases and news media from the US, this paper will examine how this discourse works to construct Africa as exceptionally homophobic, the Other of ‘the West’ in its treatment of LGBT citizens. The paper argues that not only do these essentialist accounts reproduce colonialist tropes, they omit the complexities of queer sexual politics across the African continent. They also silence the voices of queer Africans themselves and the different forms of activism taking place around sexual rights. The paper further examines the figure of the ‘oppressed African homosexual’, a logical outcome of the narrative of African homophobia. It argues that this figure works to solidify idealised values in the US, constructing the American state as a paragon of ‘freedom’, ‘equality’, and ‘human rights’, and conferring legitimacy to an array of disciplinary projects and interventions.
Gouyon Marien /LAS, EHESS
Virtuel, émotions, sentiments, espace public: vers une matérialisation de la marginalité
Émotions et sentiments sont des objets peut-être « illégitimes » mais de fait omniprésents – en arrière-plan – lors d’une recherche qualitative. Sans prétendre résoudre ce problème, j’interroge le rôle assumé par les nouvelles technologies dans la socialisation des émotions qu’éprouve un sujet qui découvre sa propre sexualité. Après avoir montré comment ces technologies contribuent au développement d’un sentiment d’appartenance, j’aborderai la question de leurs effets sur la formalisation d’une émotion que de jeunes hommes qui se rencontrent désirent partager. En somme, ces réflexions visent la manière dont l’homosexualité fournit une sorte de matérialité à un espace virtuel marqué de marginalité. En retour, je cherche à comprendre comment, à Casablanca, cet espace débouche sur une nouvelle définition de l’espace public dans les constructions identitaires homosexuelles. C’est grâce à l’ethnographie d’une « clique » (autodénomination des premiers intéressés) existant dans cette ville que j’entends mettre en lumière la matérialité de la capacité d’agir d’individus « qui se racontent homosexuels ».
Alternative discourses to alcohol consumption amongst same-sex loving Black women in Soweto: Renegotiating issues of class, race and gender
Alcohol continues to feature in spaces of resistance and visibility such as Pride events, pageants, dates, stokvels (informal savings and credit clubs) and other celebratory spaces for same-sex practising and women who love women (WLW). Alcohol consumption within the same-sex practising community has been largely documented within the context of health focusing on substance abuse, at times, as a coping mechanism. However, there are a variety of experiences and expressions that we can attribute to the chosen kind of alcohol by same-sex practising and WLW, and how these choices are a reflection of their gender expression, their sexual orientation as well as their class identities and associations. This paper will explore alcohol consumption as a gendered expression of a sexual identity amongst Black WLW within capitalism in its brands and consumption market. Despite the two decade long democracy, social spaces like lesbian friendly clubs are limited in South Africa, partly due to the historical dominant visibility of men; white, professional middle class and urbanised. The data will be sourced from a 2014 MA thesis focusing on 50 Black WLW from Soweto who filled in, amongst other demographic categories, a list of alcohol brands that each woman preferred. Two groups emerged strongly. This paper seeks to complicate the notion of class in relation to preference and status on alcohol consumption but through the performance of gender and the script of the masculine-feminine.
Malinda Ato / Leiden University
Queer Identification in Nairobi as a Globalized Endeavour
The paper I will present will be the beginning of my PhD research entitled ‘Queer Identification in Nairobi as a Globalized Endeavour.’ It investigates the role of western media in the everyday performances of daily activities and sexualities by queer Kenyans. I will be looking at the effect of international media, specifically reality television. The fields of art practice that I will be referring to are performance and digital video. I am interested in modes of performance that obstruct the senses. In these vibrant times we live in, information through different media outlets is almost too readily available to the point of sensationalism and inundation. The ubiquity of reality T.V is one such example. Reality T.V blurs the lines between reality and fiction and becomes performative. The queer art practitioners of whose work I will refer are Rotimi Fani-Kayode; in his short life he made seminal work in contribution to a queer African narrative. In addition the archives of Azalea: A Magazine by Third World Lesbians, published between 1977 and 1983 will no doubt prove both intriguing and helpful. This magazine in particular because of its political and geographical make-up; created in New York with (influential) encouragement of contributions from Africa and Asia. I will also look at the work of Del Lagrace Volcano, Catherine Opie, Zanele Muholi, Kehinde Wiley, and Mickalene Thomas.