Until fairly recently research on sexuality in Africa has focused on sexuality as a field of violence, risk and danger. In these approaches to sexuality concerns with eroticism, desire and pleasure have been conspicuously missing. The panel aims to contribute to filling this gap.
Until fairly recently research on sexuality in Africa has focused on sexuality as a field of violence, risk and danger. Development discourse has been engaged with themes such as FGM, HIV/AIDS and gendered violence - in addition to continued concerns with sex as connected to reproduction, family planning and sexual health. In these approaches to sexuality concerns with eroticism, desire and pleasure have been conspicuously missing. Furthermore, homosexual, bisexual and queer sexualities have been seen as un-African or even non-existent. Over the last few years, however, this scene has been changing. Empirical studies now focus on themes such as intergenerational and transnational economies of sex, on new and old spaces for female pleasure, power and eroticism, on male intimacies and bisexual desires. Broad questions are raised regarding possible differences between sexualities in Africa as compared to sexualities in 'the West'. Does it make sense, after all, to talk of 'African sexualities'? And if so, with which arguments, on which empirical basis? Indeed, the Western emphasis on sexual identities may have less relevance in some African contexts - but how to move studies of sexuality in Africa beyond legacies of Western categorizations? Perhaps it is time to rethink conventional categories for studies of sexuality and gender in Africa, perhaps the whole field should be rethought, making space for local categorizations of desire, eroticism and pleasure. Evoking such discussions the panel aims to contribute to a continuing development of postcolonial feminist approaches to gender, sexuality and pleasure - in Africa and beyond.