Religion, LGBT Activism and Queer Politics in Africa

Call for Papers for AASR Conference Panel

Ezra Chitando (World Council of Churches/University of Zimbabwe) and Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds)

The African Association for the Study of Religions holds its biennial conference on the theme “Revisiting Religion, Politics, and the State in Africa and the African Diaspora”, in Lusaka, 1-4 August, 2018. Please find the general Call for Papers here.

As part of this conference, we plan to convene a panel on the theme of “Religion, LGBT Activism and Queer Politics in Africa”. Moving beyond a focus on the politicisation of homosexuality and LGBT rights by the state as well as by religious actors, in this panel we draw attention to the counter-mobilisations of LGBT activists and allies. We solicit papers that examine the strategies and methods of LGBT activism in various parts of the continent, specifically exploring the ways in which LGBT actors appropriate, negotiate and reclaim religious beliefs, practices and symbols. Papers not only investigate the relationship between African LGBT activism and faith, but also explore the underlying queer political and religious imaginations informing. Hence the panel as a whole seeks to make a twofold intervention: putting the category of religion central in the emerging field of African queer studies, and putting matters of sexual diversity and queer politics central in the field of African religious studies.

Anyone interested in being part of this panel: please submit a 300 words abstract, as well as your contact details (name, position, institutional affiliation, email address, and phone number), to the conveners by email (chitsa21@yahoo.com and a.vanklinken@leeds.ac.uk) by 15 January, 2018.

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New publication: Sexual Citizenship in Postcolonial Zambia

The recently published book volume Christian Citizens and the Moral Regeneration of the African State, edited by Barbara Bompani and Caroline Valois, includes a chapter from my hand: “Sexual Citizenship in Postcolonial Zambia: From Zambian Humanism to Christian Nationalism”. A full-text version of the chapter can be found on my Academia.edu page.

In the chapter I examine the continuity and change of religion, sexuality and citizenship in postcolonial Zambia. I compare the discursive politics of sexual citizenship under President Kenneth Kaunda and his philosophy of Zambian Humanism, and in the post-Kaunda era when Zambia was officially declared a “Christian Nation”. Humanism and Christian nationalism represent two dominant narratives of nationhood in postcolonial Zambia. The chapter introduces, contextualises and examines these narratives, highlighting significant differences but also identifying striking continuities especially in relation to sexual citizenship, thus interrogating any simplistic binary between the two narratives. Both the humanist and the Christian narratives of nation building demonstrate an explicit concern with respectable citizenship and inflict upon Zambians more or less similar notions of what is considered morally appropriate in the area of sexuality. This is not surprising given the fact that Zambian Humanism, especially its moral reformist agenda, was a continuation of the civilising mission of missionary Christianity – a mission that in recent decades has been taken up with new energies by Pentecostal churches, concerned as they are not only with religious revival but also with a particular Christian vision of nation building and political renewal.

Publication details: Adriaan van Klinken, “Sexual Citizenship in Postcolonial Zambia: From Zambian Humanism to Christian Nationalism”, in Christian Citizens and the Moral Regeneration of the African State, edited by Barbara Bompani and Caroline Valois, pp. 133-148. Abingdon and New York: Routledge 2018.

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Research workshop on religion in Africa

Religion in Public

“Theory from the South”: Africa as a Site for Understanding Contemporary Religion

Research workshop with

Professor Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University

Dr Marloes Janson, SOAS University of London

Dr Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds

hosted by

Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS)

and the Leeds Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL)

25-26 January 2018

Western theories and methods have often been uncritically applied in African contexts in order to make sense of African social, cultural and religious ideas and practices. The problematic history of European imperialism in the academic study of religion in Africa has been well-documented and critiqued (Chidester 1996, 2014), and the adequacy of theoretical and methodological tools originating from the West to understand contemporary religion in Africa has been interrogated in a quest for acknowledging ‘African traditions in the study of religion in Africa’ (Adogame, Chitando & Bateye 2012, 2013). Building on these bodies of…

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New article: “Culture Wars, Race, and Sexuality”

Image result for "journal of africana religions"The Journal of Africana Religions has just published my latest article, entitled “Culture Wars, Race, and Sexuality: A Nascent Pan-African LGBT-Affirming Christian Movement and the Future of Christianity“. The article is based on my current research project on LGBT activism and Christianity in Africa, with a focus on Kenya.

In order to challenge and decenter monolithic narratives about Christian-inspired homophobia in Africa, this article draws attention to Christian countermobilizations that seek to affirm the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Africa. It focuses on the work of an African American organization, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM), to build a Pan-African LGBT-affirming Christian movement. TFAM presents its work as a response to the involvement of American white conservative evangelicals in the spread of homophobia in Africa. Where the latter has been framed as the export of American culture wars, this article discusses TFAM’s work as an attempt to counterbalance the culture wars and to define the future of African Christianity in progressive ways. The article proceeds by discussing one of the fruits of TFAM’s activities, an LGBT church in Nairobi, Kenya, and concludes by examining the overall significance and potential impact of TFAM’s work.

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New article: Ancestors, Embodiment and Sexual Desire

The new journal Body and Religion recently launched its first issue, and I’m excited to be part of it. Together with my colleague and friend Kwame Edwin Otu (University of Virginia, USA), who works in the field of African Queer Studies, I contributed an article entitled:

Ancestors, Embodiment and Sexual Desire: Wild Religion and the Body in the Story of a South African Lesbian Sangoma

Abstract

This article explores the intersections of religion, embodiment and queer sexuality in the autobiographic account of a South African self-identifying ‘lesbian sangoma’, on the basis of the book Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma6294845, by Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde. The article offers an intertextual reading of this primary text, first vis-à-vis David Chidester’s Wild Religion: Tracking the Sacred in South Africa, and second, vis-à-vis some black lesbian feminist writings, specifically by Audre Lorde, M. Jacqui Alexander, and Gloria Wekker. This intertextual reading foregrounds the embodied and in fact queer nature of the wild forces of indigenous religion in contemporary South Africa, and it illuminates how embodied and erotic experience is grounded in the domain of the sacred. Hence the article concludes by arguing for a decolonising and post-secular move in the field of African queer studies, underlining the need to take the sacred seriously as a site of queer subjectivity.

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