My book Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa, was published in August 2019 by Penn State University Press. It appeared as part of the Africana Religions book series, edited by Sylvester A. Johnson and Edward E. Curtis IV.
The book interrogates, complicates and nuances popular narratives that cite religion as the driving force behind homophobia in Africa, portraying Christianity and LGBT expression as incompatible. Without denying Christianity’s contribution to the stigma, discrimination, and exclusion of same-sex-attracted and gender-variant people on the continent, Kenyan, Christian, Queer presents an alternative narrative, foregrounding the ways in which religion also appears as a critical site of LGBT activism.
Taking up the notion of “arts of resistance,” the book presents four case studies of grassroots LGBT activism through artistic and creative expressions—including the literary and cultural work of Binyavanga Wainaina, the “Same Love” music video produced by gay gospel musician George Barasa, the Stories of Our Lives anthology project, and the LGBT-affirming Cosmopolitan Affirming Church. Through these case studies, I demonstrate how Kenyan traditions, black African identities, and Christian beliefs and practices are being navigated, appropriated, and transformed in order to allow for queer Kenyan Christian imaginations.
Transdisciplinary in scope and written in a poignantly intimate tone, Kenyan, Christian, Queer seeks to open up critical avenues for rethinking the nature and future of the relationship between Christianity and queer activism in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa.
Launch and Reception
The book was launched at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, in Nairobi (Kenya), on 18 September 2019. A second launch will be held in Leeds (United Kingdom) on 14 November 2019, was hosted by the Leeds University Centre for African Studies and the Centre for Religion and Public Life.
The annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (23-26 November 2019, in San Diego, CA, USA) features a panel discussion dedicated to the book. The panellists are Elias Bongmba (Rice University), Sarojini Nadar (University of the Western Cape), Nina Hoel (University of Oslo), Nathanauel Homewood (De Pauw University) and Elaine Nogueira-Godsey (Ohio Methodist School of Theology).
On 23 March 2020, the University of Johannesburg (South Africa) hosts a panel discussion about the book, and on 25 March the book will feature in an interview and discussion at the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa).
Chris Greenough, in Theology and Sexuality:
“Do judge this book by its cover. For me, the richness of the cover image certainly matches its contents. … This book undoubtedly enriches the small, but emerging area of sexual storytelling in global queer and religious studies, with its particular focus on questions of justice and the debates around human sexuality. … This book for its contents, its queer methodologies, and its bravery certainly does make a valuable contribution to such queer world-making.”
Damaris Parsitau in The Conversation:
The mark of a great book is often its ability to provoke robust debates and force readers to confront uncomfortable content. Kenyan, Christian, Queer provides a way to imagine a future continent where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community can exercise their rights to dignity, voice, agency, space and health without fear of stigma, harassment and worse.
BookAuthority put Kenyan, Christian, Queer on no. 1 of their list of “Best New LGBT Activism Books in 2020” and also included it in their list “Best LGBT Activism Books of All Times” and “Best New Activism Books in 2020“.