This panel will consider the utility of Queer Theory to the study of sexualities in Africa. Scholars like Dennis Altman have suggested queer theory is of little relevance to those in the Global South, and that the adoption of the terminologies of lesbian, gay, and transgender leads to a flattening of localized identities, languages, and traditions. Some, like Ifi Amadiume, have responded to efforts to translate same-sex pairings between Africans as “gay” or “lesbian” with anger, warning that such efforts would be considered “totally inapplicable, shocking and offensive” to those so described. Such concerns are heightened in discussions of Africa, where global opprobrium for anti-gay legislation has often threatened to recreate the dynamics of a disapproving West chastising a backwards “dark continent.” Yet, activists in a number of African countries have adopted terminologies like lesbian, gay, transgender, and queer that originated in the West, and used them to argue for their own personhood. A number of scholars based on the continent have also begun to claim the terminology of “queer,” finding it useful in describing the diversity of gendered and sexual practices on the continent, and deploying it to criticize the broader colonial structures which continue to shape the treatment of Africa and Africans. This panel seeks papers which consider whether “queer” is an appropriate heuristic for the study of sexuality in Africa, and/or propose alternatives.
Please send proposals to e.w.williams[at]uky.edu by February 29, 2020.