Please join us in Cohen 436 for a Faculty Global Gender Works-in-Progress Seminar featuring Kirk Fiereck (Postdoctoral Fellow, GSWS)
Respondents: Lance Wahlert (Medical Ethics & Health Policy) and David Azzolina (Van Pelt / Folklore)
"Authenticating sexuality: Ethno-sexual politics and cultural authenticity in South Africa"
This manuscript is a work-in-progress that I am preparing for submission to a leading cultural anthropology journal. It examines how queer and gender non-conforming black South Africans navigate multiple cultural fields of sexual personhood in order produce homosexuality and gender non-conformity as culturally authentic. I compare two cases: the first explores how groups of black lesbian, gay, and transgender activists confront claims that homosexuality is "un-African" at a pan-African televisual event. The taping occurred during February 2011 in Johannesburg - a quintessential African metropolis - and was subsequently broadcast globally in French, Portuguese, and English over the BBC World Service. Media spectacles such as these are increasingly common in South African political culture and will be compared with everyday narratives of authenticating sexuality. The second case examines these processes in a more quotidian register, where I examine narratives of self-identified gay, Xhosa men residing in urban and township contexts in and around Cape Town, South Africa who discuss their experiences for taking part in Xhosa initiation ceremonies and circumcision practices. One reason they cite for going through initiation is that they wanted to rearticulate – through the materiality of their bodies – that the symbolic universe in which Xhosa masculinity and manhood are articulated should include gay sexual identities. In this way, the gay men I spoke with redeploy cultural practices they consider to be traditionally African, such as male circumcision, to render their gay sexualities as authentically African modes of ethno-sexual personhood. They do so in a national and pan-African context where LGBT and queer sexualities are regularly considered invalid and illegible as African to the point of criminalization. The manuscript discusses the implications and impasses of the cultural authentication of sexuality in lieu of the reemergence of ethnicity within post-apartheid political culture.
Please RSVP to reserve your lunch and receive the pre-circulated paper.