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Hungochani, Second Edition

Hungochani, Second Edition: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 2
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Hungochani, Second Edition
    Book Description:

    In the tapestry of global queer cultures Africa has long been neglected or stereotyped. In Hungochani, Marc Epprecht seeks to change these limited views by tracing Southern Africa's history and traditions of homosexuality, modern gay and lesbian identities, and the vibrant gay rights movement that has emerged since the 1980s. Epprecht explores the diverse ways African cultures traditionally explained same-sex sexuality and follows the emergence of new forms of gender identity and sexuality that evolved with the introduction of capitalism, colonial rule, and Christian education. Using oral testimony, memoirs, literature, criminal court records, and early government enquiries from the eighteenth century to the present, he traces the complex origins of homophobia. By bringing forth a wealth of evidence about once-hidden sexual behaviour, Epprecht contributes to the honest, open discussion that is urgently needed in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Homosexuality - or hungochani as it is known in Zimbabwe - has been denounced by many politicians and church leaders as an example of how Western decadence has corrupted African traditions. However, a bold, new gay rights movement has emerged in several of the countries of the region since the 1980s, offering an exciting new dimension in the broad struggle for human rights and democracy unfolding on the continent. In a new preface to this edition, Epprecht considers the recent advances of equality on the continent such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in South Africa, as well as discriminatory setbacks such as Uganda's anti-homosexuality legislation.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8878-3
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Glossary of Terms and Acronyms Used in the Text
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xv-xxvi)
  6. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xxvii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-24)

    Hungochani means “homosexuality” in chiShona, the main indigenous language of Zimbabwe. The same term is spelled ubunkotshani or iNkotshani (“a homosexual”) in siNdebele, the second indigenous language. Both words appear to have been coined in the mid-1990s by gay rights activists through the simple addition of the prefix hu- and ubu-/i- to an older, highly derogatory term. The prefix points to a state of being or an intrinsic nature, rather than an opportunistic life-style choice. It thus opens the door to be inclusive of lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons as well as self-identified gays or other men who have sex...

  8. 1 “Traditions”
    (pp. 25-49)

    The original inhabitants of Zimbabwe were Bushmen similar to those found elsewhere throughout southern and eastern Africa and known in modern times among Shona-speakers as BaSili or zvidhoma. A rich legacy of paintings upon the walls of caves they sometimes occupied attests to their ancient way of life and spiritual beliefs. Archaeology and ethnologies of their modern-day descendents also suggest strong continuities with the past and allow us to surmise something of their sexuality.

    The ancient zvidoma were gatherers and hunters who used Stone Age tools and weapons. They lived in small, nomadic, self-sufficient groups that met from time to...

  9. 2 Cities
    (pp. 50-82)

    The first European attempt to colonize Zimbabwe came from the east in the sixteenth century. This ultimately resulted in little more than a few isolated trading posts and itinerant Portuguese and mixed-race sertanjeros (backwoodsmen). The second and enduring attempt came from the south via the Cape Colony beginning in 1890. This was done through a complex mix of violence, chicanery, and high idealism, the legacy of which remains very much alive today. A rich historiography shows how colonial rule imposed internal borders, reified ethnic divisions, destabilized gender relations, denigrated indigenous culture, elevated colonial and Christian ethics, and introduced new ethnic...

  10. 3 Outlaws
    (pp. 83-102)

    Early reports of male-male sexuality in South Africa point to another strand in the history of same-sex behaviour in the region: prison sex. Mine officials and police identified prisons and criminal gangs as the proximate source of the nkotshane infection at the mines, while scholarly analysis of the period commonly conflates the two places or passively assumes that prison sex and mine marriage were analogous. In fact, however, virtually none of Leary and Taberer’s African witnesses made such claims. Indeed, a gangster to whom the propagation of sexual preferences has been attributed, Nongoloza Mathebula, explicitly denied a prison origin to...

  11. 4 Towns
    (pp. 103-130)

    Zimbabweans rightly object to being subsumed into South African history. Zimbabwe had distinctive pre-modern African cultures and a very different modern historical experience. It was colonized much later, 1890–93 versus the 1780s-1880s for most of South Africa, and had a much smaller ratio of non-blacks to blacks: at the greatest, about 1:20 versus 1:5 or 6 in South Africa. It achieved black majority rule earlier, in 1980 versus 1994, and in a more violent way. Its economy has always been small in comparison even to individual South African provinces. The urban centres were consequently much smaller and more parochial,...

  12. 5 Fear and Loathing: Settlers
    (pp. 131-151)

    European men did not introduce male-male sex in southern Africa. They were, however, the first to unabashedly admit an actual preference for sex with males than with females for reasons of sensual desire. As George Snell, a twenty-nine-year old Englishman living in Cape Town, responded defiantly to the accusation of sodomy in 1891, “Yes, I do like men, I love men, and hate the sight of women. I am willing either to commit an unnatural offence upon a man, or to allow a man to commit the same upon my person.”¹

    Joseph Carey of Durban was even more forceful about...

  13. 6 Fear and Loathing: African Transitions
    (pp. 152-183)

    African cultures of discretion or denial around same-sex desire could be oppressive in crude ways. Several witnesses from various nations in the region told the 1907 Leary-Taberer enquiry that the death penalty was imposed for flagrant and persistent indulgence in male-male sex; Sokisi himself, role model extraordinaire of “mine marriage,” was purportedly sentenced to death by his king in absentia for his behaviour. Similar claims about African tradition have also been asserted in contemporary Zimbabwe to justify deportation, rape, castration, cutting off of the penis, and even execution of unrepentant lesbians and male homosexuals.

    Yet capital punishments in the pre-modern...

  14. 7 Contagion!
    (pp. 184-206)

    One of the foundational fears underlying homophobia is that homosexuality is contagious and therefore threatening to the majority of the population (Fone 2000). The very first enquiry into “unnatural crime” on the Witwatersrand in 1906 was predicated on the assumptions behind this fear. If Chinese catamites were present at the mines, as alleged, then they posed a danger of infecting their African co-workers, and a key justification for empire (civilizing the natives) would fall away. In the event, the catamite allegations were found to have been exaggerated. The contagion thesis was nonetheless reaffirmed in the course of the investigation when...

  15. 8 Politics
    (pp. 207-222)

    The coming out or modernization of South Africa’s and Zimbabwe’s gay rights movement has been well described and analyzed in various media elsewhere.¹ My objective in this final chapter is therefore a modest one. I would like simply to review the recent political history in these two countries as a means to underscore a point that I have already made but which I believe is important for the majority population to appreciate and share with those around them. This is that dissident, minority sexualities are not an irrelevant sideshow to the great dramas of underdevelopment and racial conflict in Africa....

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-228)

    Historical evidence from southern Africa does not support grand claims about a distinctive and timeless “African sexuality” that was exclusively heterosexual in nature. Rather, it appears that black African men and women in earlier times made a wide range of sexual decisions in response to the full gamut of human emotions. This included youthful curiosity, affection, physical lust, altered consciousness on account of alcohol or other substances, altered consciousness on account of deep feelings of spirit possession or enchantment, desire to humiliate or hurt others, hopes for economic or political gain, fear, laziness, and ignorance. It seems a shame to...

  17. APPENDIX 1 The Gay Oral History Project, and Other Notes on Research Methodology
    (pp. 229-238)
  18. APPENDIX 2 Sample Interviews Conducted for the Gay Oral History Project, February–June 1998
    (pp. 239-250)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 251-276)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-306)
  21. Index
    (pp. 307-318)