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Sexual Diversity in Africa

Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory, and Citizenship

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Sexual Diversity in Africa
    Book Description:

    How does one address homophobia without threatening majority rule democracy and freedoms of speech and faith? How does one "Africanize" sexuality research, empirically and theoretically, in an environment that is not necessarily welcoming to African scholars? In Sexual Diversity in Africa, contributors critically engage with current debates about sexuality and gender identity, as well as with contentious issues relating to methodology, epistemology, ethics, and pedagogy. They present a tapestry of issues that testify to the complex nature of sexuality, sexual practices, and gender performance in Africa. Essays examine topics such as the well-established same-sex networks in Accra and Bamako, African "traditions" defined by European observers, and the bizarre mix of faith, pharmaceuticals, and pseudo-science used to "cure" homosexual men. Their evidence also demonstrates the indefensibility of over-simplified constructions of homosexuality versus heterosexuality, modern versus traditional, Africa versus the West, and progress from the African closet towards Western models of out politics, all of which have tainted research on same-sex practices and scientific studies of HIV/AIDS. Asserting that the study of sexuality is intellectually and politically sustainable in Africa, Sexual Diversity in Africa contributes to the theorization of sexualities by presenting a more sensitive and knowledgeable study of African experiences and perspectives. Contributors include Olajide Akanji, Christophe Broqua, Cheryl Cooky, Serena Owusua Dankwa, Shari L. Dworkin, Marc Epprecht, Melissa Hackman, Notisha Massaquoi, Crystal Munthree, Kathleen O’Mara, Stella Nyanzi, S.N.Nyeck, Vasu Reddy, Amanda Lock Swarr, and Lisa Wiebesiek.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8975-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    This book has its origins in the launch of the International Resource Network for Africa (IRN-Africa) in 2007 in Saly, Senegal. At its launch, IRN-Africa became the final regional component of the larger International Resource Network (IRN), which was founded in 2002 by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York (CLAGS). CLAGS is a clearing house for information sharing and collaboration among researchers, activists and policy advocates, artists, and teachers who address diverse sexualities and gender identities throughout the world. A shared website for the autonomously governed IRN regions links visitors to a...


    • 1 Human Rights Challenge in Africa: Sexual Minority Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
      (pp. 19-36)

      The issue of sexual minority rights has been gaining currency in human rights discourse, with the United Nations (UN), some regional bodies, human rights agencies, and even the World Bank focusing on the subject (see Beyrer et al. 2011 and Global Commission on HIV and the Law 2012 for strong interventions). Whereas in the past sexual minority rights were commonly associated with liberal societies in the West, some noteworthy initiatives in recent years have come from the global South. These include the Naz Foundation’s dramatic victory in court to overturn inherited sodomy laws in India in 2009, legal recognition of...

    • 2 No Place Like Home: African Refugees and the Emergence of a New Queer Frame of Reference
      (pp. 37-53)

      On 28 June 2009, a group of African refugees took to the streets of Toronto, Canada, and headed the pride parade. They were led down the parade route with dignity and strength by Ugandan activist Victor Mukasa, a self-identified transgender lesbian who fled Uganda after police illegally raided his home in 2005 and confiscated documents related to human rights and LGBTI organizing.¹ Marching in one of the largest and longest running pride parades in North America, they faced up to one million spectators, cameras, and international media outlets as they shouted and chanted for human rights and denounced the persecution...

    • 3 The Making of “African Sexuality”: Early Sources, Current Debates
      (pp. 54-66)

      African sexuality – the idea that Africans share a common sexual culture distinct from people elsewhere in the world – has had numerous incarnations over the centuries. These include native custom, Black Peril, The African as Suckling and as Adult (Ritchie 1944) and Voodoo Eros (Bryk 1964 [1925]) – to name two of the more notorious volumes on the topic. Despite differences in emphasis and veneer of scientific neutrality, the overarching theme has been that African sexuality is a problem. In colonial times, Africans’ supposed stunted or brutish sexuality was thought to oppress and degrade women, to engender laziness and stultify intellectual growth...

    • 4 Rhetorical Analysis of President Jammeh’s Threats to Behead Homosexuals in the Gambia
      (pp. 67-88)

      On 15 May 2008, during his annual tour, President Yahya Jammeh publicly declared that he planned to behead homosexuals reported in the Gambia.¹ The threats were directed at nationals, residents, and visitors including tourists, expatriates, refugees, and foreign investors. Jammeh asserted that the Gambia was a Muslim country of believers and therefore “sinful and immoral practices [such] as homosexuality will not be tolerated.” He further explained that homosexuality was un-African and therefore “un-Gambian.” Issuing a twenty-four-hour ultimatum for homosexuals to leave the Gambia, the president promised to unleash massive surveillance to “weed out bad elements” – specifically drug-peddlers, thieves, criminals, and...


    • 5 Military Mutilation: The Aversion Program in the South African Defence Force in the Apartheid Era
      (pp. 91-108)

      Using narratives and accounts of victims, their families, and military personnel involved in the South African Defence Force’s (SADF) aversion program, we will explore the experiences of homosexuals in the SADF during the apartheid era in South Africa in this chapter. Making particular use of narratives collected during interviews for The Aversion Project: Human Rights Abuses of Gays and Lesbians in the South African Defence Force by Health Workers during the Apartheid Era (van Zyl et al. 1999), we will analyze the aversion program as a form of violence that contributed to gay identity formation or political consciousness.

      The motivation...

    • 6 Constructing the “Ex-Gay” Subject: Cultural Convergences in Post-Apartheid South Africa
      (pp. 109-128)

      Adrian was a member of Healing Revelation Ministries¹ (HRM), an ex-gay and sexual addiction ministry in Cape Town, South Africa.² He turned thirty in 2008 but, with his unlined chubby face and quiet, earnest way of expressing himself, looked closer in age to someone still in college. He was a coloured³ man who kept his hair short and neat, and he favoured roomy shirts and slacks that hid his body. He was easily embarrassed and avoided group gatherings when he could. I first met Adrian in 2004 when he was in his mid-twenties; he often seemed to be on the...

    • 7 The (Mis)Treatment of South African Track Star Caster Semenya
      (pp. 129-148)

      On 19 August 2009, eighteen-year-old Caster Semenya from rural Limpopo, South Africa, won the gold medal in the women’s 800-metre race at the World Track and Field championships in Berlin. On the day she won, the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) ordered her to undergo “gender verification” testing; the IAAF and other female runners were suspicious of Caster Semenya’s “rapid performance improvements.” In addition, media reports described Semenya with “suspicion” given her “masculine build,” “dominant performance,” “deep voice,” and “man-like style of running.” The IAAF stated that the results of the gender verification test would determine if Semenya would...


    • 8 Mobilizing against the Invisible: Erotic Nationalism, Mass Media, and the “Paranoid Style” in Cameroon
      (pp. 151-169)
      S.N. NYECK

      What is the effect of affective and erotic relationships in social movements and party identification in Africa? To what extent do such relationships illustrate political core values, the success and failure of oppositional politics? In this chapter, I analyze the strategic use of homosexuality as blackmail in nationalist and political discourse in Cameroon. Political paranoid statements on “invisible homosexuals” displayed in the public sphere in Cameroon through the actions of media, government officials, and opposition leaders introduced a socio-cultural divide in the citizenry that explains the mistrust of state institutions, political compromise (Fukuyama 2004), and the stakes in the race...

    • 9 “The One Who First Says I Love You”: Love, Seniority, and Relational Gender in Postcolonial Ghana
      (pp. 170-187)

      When I first met Janet Aidoo² in 2001, she stood bent over the open bonnet of a car, her white overalls stained with oil. We were in the centre of Accra, Ghana’s capital city, in the improvised car repair shop of a friend, who – like many other young Ghanaian men – specialized in disassembling car wrecks and building “new” cars out of the functioning parts. Janet, the stocky young woman who was responsible for re-spraying the cars, was flattered when I congratulated her on doing such a difficult “man’s job.” When we shook hands, she scratched my palm with her right...

    • 10 LGBTI Community and Citizenship Practices in Urban Ghana
      (pp. 188-207)

      In June 2010 in Sekondi-Takoradi, twin port towns in Ghana’s Western Region, “thousands of angry youth” marched in the “first ever anti-gay protests” (Peace fm Online, 4 June 2010). Organized by local Muslim imams, the march demonstrated public hostility to non-normative sexualities, but equally publicized the growth of social networks of the self-identified lesbians and gays who have founded small, vibrant communities in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, and elsewhere. Subsequently, in March 2012 in Accra, there was reported vigilante violence against perceived gays and lesbians (Joy Online, 13 March 2012). The violence was “incited” by a lesbian birthday party, at which...

    • 11 Male Homosexuality in Bamako: A Cross-Cultural and Cross-Historical Comparative Perspective
      (pp. 208-224)

      After many decades of silence, the question of same-sex sexuality in Sub-Saharan Africa began to emerge as a topic for research during the 1980s and 1990s (see for example Gay 1986; Shepard 1987; Murray and Roscoe 1998; Teunis 2001).¹ This developed primarily through a variety of studies in history and ethnography, and through investigations initiated as a result of the concern over the spread of HIV/AIDS and the risks associated with sexual practices between men (see for example Niang et al. 2003; Epprecht 2006; 2008; Nguyen 2005; Gueboguo 2006; Lorway 2006; 2008; Gaudio 2009; Tucker 2009). These studies of sexual...

    • The Politics of Sexual Diversity: An Afterword
      (pp. 225-228)

      Sexual Diversity in Africa: Politics, Theory, and Citizenship comes at a time when Africa has been placed under the global spotlight of sexual conservatism accompanied with the systemic oppression of those who do not conform to dominant heterosexual ideologies of femininity and masculinity. Indeed, the continent has come under scathing attack – largely from Western governments, funding agencies, international NGOs, and media – for repressive and regressive regimes that discriminate against individuals who espouse same-sex orientation and non-conforming gender identities. Unfortunately, most of these critiques occur outside the context of a well-grounded understanding of the historical, socio-economic, cultural, and political forces that...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 229-230)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 231-246)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 247-284)
  12. Index
    (pp. 285-302)