2021 Mary Kingsley Zochonis Lecture Series, by Dr Gibson Ncube
Saturday 26 June 17h00-18h00 British Summer Time
“Queerness is unAfrican?: The complexity of non-normative sexual and gender identities in Africa”
In Africa, politicians have pushed the idea that queer sexualities were foreign to Africa and were a decadent import from the West. At the same time, in the West, the queerphobic sentiments expressed by politicians have been used to view Africa as backward. These are some of the general (mis)conceptions that people have about queerness in Africa. This lecture examines what queerness looks like in Africa’s past and present. It also looks at the changes that have taken place in the kinds of methods used to understand it. This change is marked by a turn from the seminal texts of scholars such Michel Foucault, David Halperin and Judith Butler to the work of African theorists like Zethu Mathebeni, Stella Nyanzi and Keguro Macharia. In considering all these issues about queerness in Africa, I set out to explain the importance of grounding knowledge production on African queerness in African lived experiences as well as within African modes of thinking and being. This will be possible through forging inter-regional and intra-continental conversations that speak to the diverse socio-historical and cultural experiences of the continent. Such grounding in local experiences, I argue, is important in articulating African queer subjectivities in their multilayered complexities.
Dr Gibson Ncube is Associate Professor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, at the University of Zimbabwe. His academic work is positioned at the intersections of literature, cultural studies, and gender/sexuality studies. In particular, he undertakes pioneering work in the field of queer African studies. His unique scholarly expertise allows him to broaden the scope of this emerging field, bringing in Francophone and North African perspectives. He also pushes its boundaries by explicitly engaging with questions of decolonising queer studies in contemporary Africa.
A widely published academic, alongside over 30 journal articles and book chapters, he is the author of La sexualité queer au Maghreb à travers la literature (L’Harmattan, 2018), and is currently completing a book titled Queer Bodies in African Films. At present, he serves as co-convenor of the Queer African Studies Association, a coordinate organisation of the African Studies Association, and holds a 2021 Virtual Research Fellowship with the University of Leeds.
Queer related subjects have a contested status in many countries on the African continent, both in the academy and beyond. Moreover, work in this area also remains rather marginal in African Studies at large. By inviting Dr Ncube to deliver one of the two 2021 Mary Kingsley Zochonis Lectures, ASAUK recognises the critical importance of this field of research and its significance for broader conversations regarding African cultural subjectivities, social formations, political structures, and decolonial epistemologies.