Accepted paper:

Reassembling the social: Reflections on how to decolonise the study of African LGBTQ+ activisms


Tanja Dittfeld (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

Most research on African LGBTQ+ activisms white-washes the needs, experiences and expressions of LGBTQ+ activisms in Africa. This paper offers reflections on how to avoid the imposition of national tunnel-vision and Western-centric universalism in the study of African LGBTQ+ activisms.

Paper long abstract:

LGBTQ+ activisms are undeniably on the rise in Africa, and yet Africa remains largely absent from social science research using a social movement perspective. Studying social movement activism in Africa is admittedly somewhat of an epistemological conundrum as social movement theory predominantly focuses on socio-political movements in Europe, North and South America. As such, it is not to say what is African about African social movements, or to what extent they were and are shaped by external actors, concepts and norms. The forms that social movement activisms vis-à-vis artivisms take are embedded in global formations like imperialism and colonialism, especially in postcolonial settings. African LGBTQ+ activisms do as such not necessarily challenge but rather absorb projections of Western power into the very fabric of local struggles. The study of arts of resistance as part of the broader African LGBTQ+ social movement should thus not merely be approached as a study of ways of bringing about and resisting change, but also a study of ways of (re)asserting a narrative independent of Western impositions. As part of a larger PhD project looking into LGBQ+ activisms in Uganda, this paper offers reflections on the (Western) power and influence hidden in social movement scholarship and its implications for the study of African LGBTQ+ activisms, as well as notions of belonging and exclusions inherent in the universal human rights-based language and claims used in and about African LGBTQ+ activisms.

panel Anth34
African LGBTQ activisms: queer counter narratives and arts of resistance