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Out in Africa

Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa

Ashley Currier
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Out in Africa
    Book Description:

    Visibility matters to activists-to their social and political relevance, their credibility, their influence. But invisibility matters, too, in times of political hostility or internal crisis. Out in Africa is the first to present an intimate look at how Namibian and South African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations have cultivated visibility and invisibility as strategies over time. As such, it reveals the complexities of the LGBT movements in both countries as these organizations make use of Western terminology and notions of identity to gain funding even as they work to counter the perception that they are "un-African." Different sociopolitical conditions in Namibia and South Africa affected how activists in each country campaigned for LGBT rights between 1995 and 2006. Focusing on this period, Ashley Currier shows how, in Namibia, LGBT activists struggled against ruling party leaders' homophobic rhetoric and how, at the same time, black LGBT citizens of South Africa, though enjoying constitutional protections, greater visibility, and heightened activism, nonetheless confronted homophobic violence because of their gender and sexual nonconformity. As it tells the story of the evolving political landscape in postapartheid Namibia and South Africa, Out in Africa situates these countries' movements in relation to developments in pan-African LGBT organizing and offers broader insights into visibility as a social movement strategy rather than simply as a static accomplishment or outcome of political organizing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8248-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: How Visibility Matters
    (pp. 1-24)

    Visibility matters to social movements. Public visibility imbues them with social and political relevance, enhancing activists’ ability to disseminate their demands and ideas. Increasing a movement’s visibility can enable activists to attract new recruits. Certain forms of public visibility afford movements credibility that improves their standing with audiences that activists want to influence. Invisibility also appeals to activists at times, especially if political circumstances become hostile to organized resistance or if activists must withdraw from public visibility to respond to internal crises. These examples illustrate the strategic aspects of movement visibility. Activists make strategic choices to promote particular public presentations...

  6. 1 The Rise of LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa
    (pp. 25-50)

    This chapter provides a historical overview of LGBT organizing in Namibia and South Africa.¹ After examining the effects of repression on social movement visibility strategies, I consider how racial, gender, and sexual ideologies intertwined and buttressed the apartheid state’s repressive policing of sexuality. My historical examination of LGBT movement visibility strategies begins in South Africa because the movement there has a much longer history than the Namibian movement.

    Lesbian and gay resistance in South Africa coalesced in response to apartheid state repression in the late 1960s. White lesbians and gay men dominated the movement’s early years, but activists struggled to...

  7. 2 ʺThis Lesbian Issueʺ: Navigating Public Visibility as Lesbian Movement Organizations
    (pp. 51-88)

    In many newly democratizing African nations, sexuality is a publicly contentious matter (Posel 2005). Citing a need to preserve cultural sovereignty, some political leaders use sexuality to mandate a return to an African heteropatriarchy that predates European colonialist interference.¹ When African women activists, especially those affiliated with autonomous women’s movements, disagreed with political leaders on questions of sexuality (or other political issues), they risked “being treated as non-African, uprooted, bourgeois, or worse … lesbian” (Sow 1997, 33).² In such circumstances, political leaders deployed the term lesbian to disparage women’s movement campaigns and to discourage them from challenging the ruling party’s...

  8. 3 Disappearing Acts: Organizational Invisibility in Times of Opportunity
    (pp. 89-120)

    Are movement organizations that cultivate public visibility more likely to remain visible to target audiences than organizations that tend toward less visibility or invisibility? How might scholars interpret invisibility in these circumstances? Sister Namibia, an organization with a strategic orientation that tended toward visibility, experienced invisibility with constituents when the organization stopped publishing the magazine and suspended the sexual-rights campaign. This unintentional invisibility resulted from a combination of factors. Staff could not locate dedicated funding from Northern donors who were withdrawing from Namibia, and the director devoted some of her time and energy to other activist projects. In Sister Namibia’s...

  9. 4 Homosexuality Is African: Struggles ʺto Be Seenʺ
    (pp. 121-150)

    At the beginning of TRP’s weekly radio show, “Talking Pink,” producers played a recording of former Namibian Minister of Home Affairs Jerry Ekandjo, which fetured him stating,

    We don’t have homosexuals in Namibia. There are only a few people. In Windhoek, there are maybe not more than ten…. If there are more than ten, let them come in the [Home Affairs] office. But most of them are from the European Union. You will find Afrikaners, the English, the British, but you will never find Oshivambo, Nama, Herero, Damara.

    Producers then played a recording of TRP members declaring their ethnic and...

  10. Conclusion: Why Visibility Matters
    (pp. 151-160)

    The political opportunity constituted by democratization and decolonization conjured the promise of equality for all Namibians and South Africans, regardless of race, class, gender, or sexuality. Just after Namibian independence, gender and sexual minorities regarded the democratic transition jubilantly, expecting that SWAPO leaders’ promises of equality would translate into LGBT rights. As SWAPO leaders unleashed homophobic rhetoric in the mid-1990s, LGBT persons’ hopes were not realized. Ruling party leaders’ positions on LGBT rights affected activists’ visibility strategies, forcing activists with Sister Namibia and TRP to adopt defensive positions in public as they demanded that SWAPO leaders recant their antigay threats....

  11. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 161-174)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 175-202)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 203-238)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-256)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-260)