The Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) in Stellenbosch, South Africa, has awarded me a Research Fellowship under their Young Scholars Support Programme. In 2016 I will spend three months at STIAS to work at the project entitled ‘Christianity, Modernity and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa‘.
This project examines the complexity and multiplicity of Christian contributions to politics of homosexuality and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights in Africa, based on case studies in Kenya and Zambia. In popular discourses, Christianity is used to perpetuate nationalist rhetoric of African authenticity in which homosexuality is depicted as ‘un-African’ and ‘un-Christian’ and therefore unacceptable. At the same time, Christian-inspired beliefs are also negotiated and used by those advocating for LGBT rights and/or identifying as LGBT. This reflects not only the variety of Christianities in contemporary Africa, their public manifestation, and the socio-political tensions between them, but also the different transnational networks in which local Christian discourses are embedded and the different trajectories of modernity they represent. Unravelling this dynamic, the project draws on fieldwork I have conducted in Zambia (2011-2013) and Kenya (2015), which enables a comparative study that nuances the monolithic idea of an African faith-fuelled homophobia.