Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

African Sexualities


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The 2012 edition of the Gender Institute will study African Sexualities by exploring the links between the human body, gender and sexuality. This issue is not to be considered on the sidelines of development because it is one of its facets. Indeed, it is about the life of men and women, their privacy and desires, their relationships with their bodies and the social standards that govern the latter, their identities and the recognition of rights that go with anything that refers to policy, society and law.

Patriarchal society, the colonial and post-colonial contexts show that the male body and the female body bear cultural meanings and representations that reflect power relations within society. How then, from a constructivist perspective, can we dispense with African epistemologies of the body by breaking away from a legacy that still bears the imprint of some anthropological vision of African sexualities, with a whiff of ethnocentrism or even racism. The issue of African sexuality can be considered as the matching piece to the discourse on the Other, the way it was imagined, invented and represented, as shown by the illustrative example of Sarah Bartmann. It is necessary, as part of a theoretical re-appropriation, to not confine ourselves to a biomedical and inevitably simplistic framework imposed by the issue of reproduction and which has been overwhelmed by the issue of AIDS.

From a methodological point of view, how can the postcolonial or feminist theory, Marxism or postmodernism help to deconstruct stereotypes in order to better analyze the complexities of African sexualities? How can we go beyond the binary system postulated by gender to understand sexual diversity? How can we account for the changing representations of sexuality when it results from several factors: contact with other cultures, urbanization or exile, or even the pervasiveness of television, film or the Internet on the lives of African people today? Furthermore, the role of the crisis in this dynamic vision of sexualities has transformed family structures or compelled men and women to engage in various practices, including sex trade sometimes. How can one understand not only the role played by law in maintaining a gendered society in which women are subordinate to men, but also all the ideological forms that justify the social control over sexualities and inform the strategies to fight against the AIDS pandemic?

Analyzing African sexualities also means revisiting the issue of genital mutilation, gender-based violence based and homosexuality. The context of globalization that takes a critical look at the universal sphere, by giving greater visibility to the demand for and recognition of diversity and by crystallizing identities and traditions, makes this debate essential in Africa. Can the dissemination of a culture of human rights globally content itself with the objection to homosexuality on behalf of African culture? Indeed, this context of male domination which poses heterosexuality as a dominant normative framework should not obscure the issue of secondary sexualities.

Please click here to see the call for applications

February 22 2012