Having a broad interest in the public role of religion in contemporary African societies, the particular focus of my research is on issues of religion, gender and sexuality, mostly in relation to Christian traditions.
Much of my work is empirically based (I conducted fieldwork in Zambia, and currently in Kenya). It seeks to unravel and understand (sometimes rather unintelligible) religious discourses and expressions and their socio-cultural and political manifestation and significance. Thereto I adopt a multidisciplinary methodology combining anthropology, cultural studies, sociology and theology, as well as a range of critical theoretical perspectives such as feminist, postcolonial and queer theories.
In my doctoral and immediate postdoctoral research, I examined different types of Christian masculinity politics – in Catholic and Pentecostal settings in Zambia, and among a group of African theologians. My PhD dissertation (Utrecht University, 2011) formed the basis of my first book, Transforming Masculinities in African Christianity: Gender Controversies in Times of AIDS (Ashgate 2013). Here I critically examine the discursive politics of masculinity in contemporary African Christian contexts and explore the complexity and ambiguity of religious gender discourses on masculinity.
In more recent years, my work has come to focus on issues of religion, sexuality and queer politics. My research into the politicisation of homosexuality in Zambia has resulted in a number of articles, published in journals such as Religion, Critical African Studies and Studies in World Christianity. Together with Ezra Chitando I have also co-edited two book volumes on the subject, Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa and Christianity and Controversies over Homosexuality in Contemporary Africa (Routledge 2016).
My second monograph, entitled Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa, was published by Penn State University Press in 2019 in the Africana Religions book series. The book examines the role of religion in LGBT activism in Africa, specifically Kenya. It presents four case studies of creative forms of queer visibility through which Kenyan LGBT actors organize and present themselves in the public domain, while critically engaging and appropriating Christian beliefs, symbols, and practices. The book thus counter-balances the dominant narrative of religiously-inspired homophobia in Africa and shows how Christian traditions can also inspire queer politics and social change.
I currently lead an AHRC-funded research network on Sexuality and Religion in East Africa, together with Dr Barbara Bompani (Edinburgh) and Dr Damaris Parsitau (Egerton University). The network, which runs in the years 2020-2021, brings together community based organisations and academic partners in several East African countries, who work to engage religious leaders on issues of LGBTI inclusion.
With a collaborative research grant from the American Academy of Religion (2018), I coordinated the project “Intersecting African, Queer and Religious Studies” together with Dr Rose Mary Amenga-Etego (University of Ghana). The project aims at capacity building among African postgraduate and early-career researchers conducting innovative work in the field of religion and African queer studies.
Together with Professor Ebenezer Obadare (University of Kansas) I coordinated a University of Leeds/Worldwide University Network funded research network project on Pentecostalism and Sexual Citizenship in Africa (2016-2018). An interdisciplinary research workshop took place at Leeds in 2017, resulting in a special issue of the journal Citizenship Studies.
Together with Professor Sarojini Nadar (University of the Western Cape, South Africa), I coordinated a British Academy funded research project, ‘Queering the Curriculum: LGBTI, Sexuality, and Masculinity Issues in Theology & Religious Studies in South Africa and the UK’ (2016-2017). The project aimed to investigate how LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) issues and queer perspectives are addressed in the Theology & Religious Studies (TRS) curriculum within South African and United Kingdom higher education contexts. It resulted in a special section in the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 34/1 (2018).