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An incisive study of homosexuality in traditional and modern African cultures challenges the idea of African-American heterosexuality in a collection of essays that discuss woman-woman marriages, male homosexuality in West Africa, alternative gender identities among the Swahili, and homosexual portrayals in contemporary African literature. Original.
Claims concerning the presence and status of homosexuality in historic African cultures have become central points of contention in debates among contemporary African Americans. Some of those involved in the debate have even asserted that the original languages of Africa contained no words for gay or lesbian, therefore concluding that they did not exist. This text offers a balanced work on African sexuality, and contains perspectives from the fields of anthropology and history, along with extensive evidence from ethnographic and literary sources. The essays explore such topics as woman woman marriages, early reports of Malagasy berdaches, male homosexuality in contemporary West Africa, alternative gender identities among the Swahili, the regulation of sexuality in colonial Zimbabwe, and the portrayals of homosexuality in modern African literature.
Challenging the received orthodoxies of social anthropology, Ifi Amadiume argues that in precolonial society, sex and gender did not necessarily coincide. Examining the structures that enabled women to achieve power, she shows that roles were neither rigidly masculinized nor feminized. Economic changes in colonial times undermined women’s status and reduced their political role and Dr Amadiume maintains, patriarchal tendencies introduced by colonialism persist today, to the detriment of women. Critical of the chauvinist stereotypes established by colonial anthropology, the author stresses the importance of recognizing women’s economic activities as as essential basis of their power. She is also critical of those western feminists who, when relating to African women, tend to accept the same outmoded projections.
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
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.
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.
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.

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