This article is a contribution to the conversation on what lies at the crux of the contradiction of South Africa’s progressive constitution and legal framework with reference to sexuality and limited access of the rights these convey for a vast number of people in same-sex relationships. This article locates what lies at the heart of this contradiction as rooted in the (colonial) cultural archive of gender and sexuality that has historically privileged heterosexuality. We continue to see this through neoliberal universalist rights approaches, in which the nongovernmental organizational narrative is deeply imbricated. Organizations like Dutch international human rights funder Hivos that have funded the championing of sexual rights often fail to fully engage with and interrogate this (colonial) cultural archive. This is the customary in its hegemonic form. By deploying an intersectional decolonial approach, this article sheds light on the locus of colonial difference and offers three nuanced infrapolitical narratives of African same-sex intimacies operating at this locus—queering the customary—and this way reimagining African sexuality, thereby offering an epistemic reconstitution.
Through The Lens of Modernity: Reflections on the (Colonial) Cultural Archive of Sexuality and Gender in South Africa
Phoebe Kisubi Mbasalaki is a lecturer in the gender studies program at the African Gender Institute (AGI), University of Cape Town. She is also a postdoctoral research fellow on the GlobalGRACE project housed at the AGI and the Centre for Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (CTDPS), University of Cape Town, as well as the NGO SWEAT. She holds a doctorate in gender, media, and culture from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Phoebe was also a lecturer at Utrecht University, and taught on the Graduate Gender Studies Programme, feminist theory, and feminist research methods. Her research interests are in critical race, gender, class, sexuality, public health, and decolonial thought and praxis. She has also worked in various fields, including those involving gender, HIV, and public health, with agencies such UNDP, UNAIDS, and WHO.
Phoebe Kisubi Mbasalaki; Through The Lens of Modernity: Reflections on the (Colonial) Cultural Archive of Sexuality and Gender in South Africa. GLQ 1 June 2020; 26 (3): 455–475. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10642684-8311800
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