Africanizing “Queer African Historical Studies”

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 10:30 AM
Gramercy West (New York Hilton)
Marc Epprecht, Queen's University
Same-sex sexuality was not a topic that Africans historically broached in public discourse, or even scholarly research. With rare exceptions, the archive attesting to physically intimate same-sex relationships is deeply colonial in nature, riven with moral judgements and often pernicious stereotypes about “the Native.” This has begun to change. The HIV/AIDS pandemic, feminist and queer activism, and pioneering studies by (mostly) non-African historians have piqued scholarly interest in sexuality generally, and same-sex sexuality specifically over the past three decades. Yet queer theory as articulated in the West often does not capture the specificities of African experiences and perspectives very well, and indeed, a critique has emerged that queer theory and queer activism from the West are also colonizing. A consensus among African queer theorists builds upon the need to “indigenize” or “Africanize” core concepts and approaches. How can this be achieved? A close analysis of dozens of contributions to Chiang (2019) from and about Africa south of the Sahara, and critical reflection upon the production process, provides insight into the challenges, and the methods that African (and Africanist) scholars are using to address colonial tropes in queer historical research.
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