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In 1987, more than a decade before the dawn of queer theory, Ifi Amadiume wrote Male Daughters, Female Husbands, to critical acclaim. This compelling and highly original book frees the subject position of 'husband' from its affiliation with men, and goes on to do the same for other masculine attributes, dislocating sex, gender and sexual orientation. Boldly arguing that the notion of gender, as constructed in Western feminist discourse, did not exist in Africa before the colonial imposition of a dichotomous understanding of sexual difference, Male Daughters, Female Husbands examines the structures in African society that enabled people to achieve power, showing that roles were not rigidly masculinized nor feminized. At a time when gender and queer theory are viewed by some as being stuck in an identity-politics rut, this outstanding study not only warns against the danger of projecting a very specific, Western notion of difference onto other cultures, but calls us to question the very concept of gender itself.
Breathtaking in its historical and geographical scope, this book provides a sweeping examination of the construction of male and female homosexualities, stressing both the variability of the forms same-sex desire can take and the key recurring patterns it has formed throughout history. "[An] indispensable resource on same-sex sexual relationships and their social contexts. . . . Essential reading." —Choice "[P]romises to deliver a lot, and even more extraordinarily succeeds in its lofty aims. . . . [O]riginal and refreshing. . . . [A] sensational book, part of what I see emerging as a new commonsense revolution within academe." —Kevin White, International Gay and Lesbian Review
In the vivid tapestry of global queer cultures Africa has long been neglected or stereotyped. In Hungochani, Marc Epprecht seeks to change that by tracing the history and traditions of homosexuality in southern Africa, modern gay and lesbian identities, and the vibrant gay rights movement that has emerged since the 1980s. He explores the diverse ways African cultures traditionally explained same-sex sexuality and follows the emergence of new forms of gender identity and sexuality that evolved with the introduction of capitalism, colonial rule, and Christian education. Using oral testimony, memoirs, literature, criminal court records, and early government enquiries from the eighteenth century to the present, he traces the complex origins of homophobia. By bringing forth a wealth of evidence about once-hidden sexual behaviour, Epprecht contributes to the honest, open discussion that is urgently needed in the battle against HIV/AIDS. Homosexuality - or hungochani as it is known in Zimbabwe - has been denounced by many politicians and church leaders as an example of how Western decadence has corrupted African traditions. However, a bold new gay rights movement has emerged in several of the countries of the region since the 1980s, offering an exciting new dimension in the broad struggle for human rights and democracy unfolding on the continent.
The dramatic impact of Islamic fundamentalism in recent years has skewed our image of Islamic history and culture. Stereotypes depict Islamic societies as economically backward, hyper-patriarchal, and fanatically religious. But in fact, the Islamic world encompasses a great diversity of cultures and a great deal of variation within those cultures in terms of gender roles and sexuality. The first collection on this topic from a historical and anthropological perspective, Homosexuality in the Muslim World reveals that patterns of male and female homosexuality have existed and often flourished within the Islamic world. Indeed, same-sex relations have, until quite recently, been much more tolerated under Islam than in the Christian West. Based on the latest theoretical perspectives in gender studies, feminism, and gay studies, Homosexuality in the Muslim World includes cultural and historical analyses of the entire Islamic world, not just the so-called Middle East. Essays show both age-stratified patterns of homosexuality, as revealed in the erotic and romantic poetry of medieval poets, and gender-based patterns, in which both men and women might, to varying degrees, choose to live as members of the opposite sex. The contributors draw on historical documents, literary texts, ethnographic observation and direct observation by both Muslim and non-Muslim authors to show the considerable diversity of Islamic societies and the existence of tolerated gender and sexual variances.
Heterosexual Africa? The History of an Idea from the Age of Exploration to the Age of AIDS builds from Marc Epprecht’s previous book, Hungochani (which focuses explicitly on same-sex desire in southern Africa), to explore the historical processes by which a singular, heterosexual identity for Africa was constructed—by anthropologists, ethnopsychologists, colonial officials, African elites, and most recently, health care workers seeking to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This is an eloquently written, accessible book, based on a rich and diverse range of sources, that will find enthusiastic audiences in classrooms and in the general public. Epprecht argues that Africans, just like people all over the world, have always had a range of sexualities and sexual identities. Over the course of the last two centuries, however, African societies south of the Sahara have come to be viewed as singularly heterosexual. Epprecht carefully traces the many routes by which this singularity, this heteronormativity, became a dominant culture. In telling a fascinating story that will surely generate lively debate, Epprecht makes his project speak to a range of literatures—queer theory, the new imperial history, African social history, queer and women’s studies, and biomedical literature on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. He does this with a light enough hand that his story is not bogged down by endless references to particular debates. Heterosexual Africa? aims to understand an enduring stereotype about Africa and Africans. It asks how Africa came to be defined as a “homosexual-free zone” during the colonial era, and how this idea not only survived the transition to independence but flourished under conditions of globalization and early panicky responses to HIV/AIDS.
The author traces the misapplication of Western, body-oriented concepts of gender through the history of gender discourses in Yoruba studies. THE INVENTION OF WOMEN demonstrates that biology as a rationale for organizing the social world is a Western construction not applicable in Yoruban culture where social organization was determined by relative age.
There have been few book-length engagements with the question of sexuality in Africa, let alone African homosexuality. African Intimacies simultaneously responds to the public debate on the “Africanness” of homosexuality and interrogates the meaningfulness of the terms “sexuality” and “homosexuality” outside Euro-American discourse. Speculating on cultural practices interpreted by missionaries as sodomy and resistance to colonialism, Neville Hoad begins by analyzing the 1886 Bugandan martyrs incident—the execution of thirty men in the royal court. Then, in a series of close readings, he addresses questions of race, sex, and globalization in the 1965 Wole Soyinka novel The Interpreters, examines the emblematic 1998 Lambeth conference of Anglican bishops, considers the imperial legacy in depictions of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and reveals how South African writer Phaswane Mpe’s contemporary novel Welcome to Our Hillbrow problematizes notions of African identity and cosmopolitanism. Hoad’s assessment of the historical valence of homosexuality in Africa shows how the category has served a key role in a larger story, one in which sexuality has been made in line with a vision of white Western truth, limiting an understanding of intimacy that could imagine an African universalism. Neville Hoad is assistant professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin.

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