Having a broad interest in the public roles of religion in African societies today, the particular focus of my research is on issues of religion, gender and sexuality, mostly in relation to various Christian traditions.
Much of my work is empirically based (I conducted substantial 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 and homosexuality. Thanks to a grant I received in 2013 from the American Academy of Religion, I was able to initiate research on the politicisation of homosexuality in Zambia. This 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).
I am currently working on a new book project that explores the relation between Christianity and queer politics in contemporary Africa. The project particularly focuses on a selection of queer social and cultural ‘texts’ from Kenya, examining the creative ways in which LGBT/Q individuals, activists and communities in Kenya relate to religion, specifically Christianity.
With a collaborative research grant from the American Academy of Religion (2018), I coordinate 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 am coordinating 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).