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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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Panel: The Language of Sex and Sexualities / The “invisible” medialities of sex(Fri, July 8, 10.30-12.15 am)


Sexualities as medium for political communication in Nigeria’s ENDSARS protest

Sharon Omotoso, Adeola Opesade, University of Ibadan

Introducing a newer dimension to protest culture in Nigeria, the ENDSARS protest of October 2020 which arose from public frustration over police brutality has retained global attention with unfolding impacts long after it has ended. Of specific interest to this study is how sexualities play out during protests thereby mediating between political actors and processes, and ultimately morphing into political communication. This study examines sexualities in selected tweets during the ENDSARS protest to critically analyse contents that have embodied medialities. Findings of the study would be two-fold; (1) to reveal languages of sex and sexuality used in moments of ENDSARS protest on selected social media and, (2) to present theoretical insights inherent in the use of sex and sexuality as mediums of political communication

Keywords: endsars; medialities; sexualities; political communication; protest

Body Decoration as a medium for political communication by Queer Sudanese

Samah Khalaf Allah, Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence

In my presentation, I would demonstrate that the body is the primary location and channel for resistance which Queer people systematically used to challenge years of oppression, exclusion, and marginalization. I specifically focus on how Sudanese Queer people used “Body Decoration” practices as a medium for political communication and as means of protesting, calling for decriminalization and protection. And how they have been utilizing these practices in conjunction with the feminist movement to make more intersectional demands on resisting sexual violence and reclaiming one’s sexuality and the body. Queer bodies are fundamentally socially constructed which shape their experiences of femininity and masculinity in interpersonal interactions, as well as class, age, ethnicity, and educational dimensions. However, the transgender experience has complicated this binary of femininity and masculinity by emphasizing the lived experience of transition, sexual desires, identities, and practices that challenge the socially constructed binary. In Sudan, culture, laws, and societal as well as religious norms confine gender and sexuality within the framework of heteronormativity/heteropatriarchy, i.e., relationships within marriage and only with the opposite sex. Both gender and sexuality are often experienced through our bodies, the body is not only where culture is de/inscribed, but it is also where each person is defined and placed within a socio-cultural context. That is why exploring bodies as sites of communication/mediums becomes interesting. Body decorations such as Henna, Exotic Dancing, Accessories (piercing, rings, tattoos, and writing on the skin), Hair dye, Colors, Outfit, Haircuts, and Gay Slang (Vocabulary), are used by Sudanese Queer people to express belonging and exclusion, gender identity, sexuality, and sex characteristics through creating a political statement to challenge and go beyond heteronormative binaries. 

Keywords: Body Decorations, Political communication, Queer, Sexuality

(Queer) sexuality during and after the Arab Spring in North Africa

Gibson Ncube, Stellenbosch University

This paper examines the role of (queer) sexuality during and in the aftermath of the Arab Spring in North Africa. Discriminatory laws still prevail in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia even after the Arab Spring which marked an important point in which the Arab world revolted against autocratic regimes of ‘big men’ such as Ben Ali. This paper seeks to offer a brief synoptic overview of LGBTI rights in the Maghreb and how/if the Arab-Spring has brought any significant changes to the perception of LGBTI individuals and their human rights. This paper argues that even though discriminatory laws are still in place in the countries of the Maghreb, the Arab Spring has played a vital part in opening up new discursive and public spaces. The launch of magazines such as Mithly (Morocco) and Gayday Magazine (Tunisia), coupled with the explosion of literary production, can be seen as a positive sign of some progress on rights of queer individuals in conservative Maghrebian countries, where non-normative sexuality is not only criminalised but are considered a religious and cultural taboo. This paper also questions if it is indeed possible to have a transition to democracy, particularly in Tunisia where there was a revolt against the autocratic regime of Ben Ali, if rights of minorities such as gays and lesbians are not upheld. It is ultimately contended that imposing Western approaches to sexuality and human rights will in no way lead to the liberation of queer individuals, who currently are unable to come out and publicly live their sexuality. On the contrary, it is necessary to appreciate the particular socio-cultural milieu in which non-normative sexuality frames itself in the Maghreb (by and large constructed on power subtleties and the notion of collective denial). The Arab Spring should thus be viewed as a defining moment to imagine new prospects for queer rights advocacy in the Maghreb, and the Arab world in general.

Queering medialities: Tunisian art activism

Jihad Alfakir, University of Bayreuth

In Tunisia, the 2011 revolution has also been about sex, sexuality and gender all of which are  highly politicized and policed. Hence, sexuality becomes a medium of contention and intervention in the political sphere. Looking at Tunisia is also interesting because of the political transformation and uncertainty with the current political situation. In the post-revolution different organizations, previously working underground, are now defending publicly the rights of the LGBTIQ+. In this presentation, I will talk about some strategies like the language or the terms used by the community and spaces of interventions like the festivals of Queer activism.  I will explore what mediums non-normative sexual and gender groups use to be part of this political process. For example, in May and June 2022, a Queer play has been performed several times in one of the important cinema in the capital, and has been seen by a large number of people. Yet, the state still arrests Queer people, especially sex workers by using different legal arsenals. What languages, symbols, and performances are deployed in this play to make sense of the political processes Tunisia is experiencing? How might we read these mediums as part of queer people’s struggle to be part of a larger socio-political change? These are some of the questions I will think about in my presentation.

Between Identity and Power Relations: The Mediality of Dressing in Social Conditioning

Ayodele Yusuff, University of Lagos

In reference to recent recommended criteria, this paper examines the mediality of dressing in social conditioning as it relates to identity and power relations. It addresses sartorial mediality as a means and process by which persons are socially conditioned and their modes of relations negotiated, in a given space and time, through the roles conferred on them by media such as apparels, clothing, paraphernalia, and other rainments. It also examines the performative character of persons whose identities are being shaped and reshaped by this sartorial mediation. Whilst this study relies on the status conferral theory to explain sartorial identity and power relations, it makes use of the qualitative research approach such as interviews, media monitoring, surveys and key informant interviews to generate data. It deploys purposive sampling of different dressings and paraphernalia from various localities in an African society, and examines how they condition individual and group consciousness. It raises such questions as: How does dressing and its performativity mediate between relations in a given social setting? What modes of being and acting are negotiated by sartorial mediality? In posing these questions, it opens up new vistas for understanding the various conceptions and extensions of power.

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