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Out in Africa

LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa

2012
Author:

Ashley Currier

Out in Africa

The first insider’s view of contemporary LGBT rights activism in Namibia and South Africa

Out in Africa presents an intimate look at how Namibian and South African LGBT organizations have cultivated visibility and invisibility as strategies over time. Ashley Currier situates these countries’ movements in relation to developments in pan-African LGBT organizing, offering broader insights into visibility as a social movement strategy rather than simply as a static accomplishment or outcome of political organizing.

Out in Africa is an extremely important book. Ashley Currier broadly addresses factors influencing mobilization of LGBT movements within sub-Saharan Africa at the local, national, and international level. She further extends existing literature on social movements, identity, and development by examining the prospects of mobilization among disadvantaged groups within newly democratized developing countries.

Kathleen Fallon, author of Democracy and the Rise of Women’s Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa

Visibility matters to activists—to their social and political relevance, their credibility, their influence. But invisibility matters, too, in times of political hostility or internal crisis. Out in Africa is the first book to present an intimate look at how Namibian and South African lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizations have cultivated visibility and invisibility as strategies over time. As such, it reveals the complexities of the LGBT movements in both countries as these organizations make use of Western terminology and notions of identity to gain funding even as they work to counter the perception that they are “un-African.”

Different sociopolitical conditions in Namibia and South Africa affected how activists in each country campaigned for LGBT rights between 1995 and 2006. Focusing on this period, Ashley Currier shows how, in Namibia, LGBT activists struggled against ruling party leaders’ homophobic rhetoric and how, at the same time, black LGBT citizens of South Africa, though enjoying constitutional protections, greater visibility, and heightened activism, nonetheless confronted homophobic violence because of their gender and sexual nonconformity.

As it tells the story of the evolving political landscape in postapartheid Namibia and South Africa, Out in Africa situates these countries’ movements in relation to developments in pan-African LGBT organizing and offers broader insights into visibility as a social movement strategy rather than simply as a static accomplishment or outcome of political organizing.

Out in Africa

Ashley Currier is assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the University of Cincinnati.

Out in Africa

Out in Africa is an extremely important book. Ashley Currier broadly addresses factors influencing mobilization of LGBT movements within sub-Saharan Africa at the local, national, and international level. She further extends existing literature on social movements, identity, and development by examining the prospects of mobilization among disadvantaged groups within newly democratized developing countries.

Kathleen Fallon, author of Democracy and the Rise of Women’s Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa

Out in Africa provides a useful reminder that social movements are composed of people, who bring their own ideals, politics, and needs to the work that they do. ... For students of social movements, post-colonial theory, and sexuality studies, the careful, deliberate sociology and ethnography that Currier has produced is a welcome landmark in a growing field of scholarship.

African Affairs

Out in Africa is the first study of its kind from Africa, and as such an important addition to the historiography of sexualities and social movements in southern Africa.

Journal of African History

Out in Africa makes a unique contribution to social movement literature and our collective knowledge of the sexual-political landscape of grassroots organizing around gender and sexual diversity in Southern Africa.

Mobilization

Out in Africa

Contents

Acknowledgments
Acronyms

Introduction: How Visibility Matters
1. The Rise of LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa
2. “This Lesbian Issue”: Navigating Public Visibility as Lesbian Movement Organizations
3. Disappearing Acts: Organizational Invisibility in Times of Opportunity
4. Homosexuality Is African: Struggles “to Be Seen”
Conclusion: Why Visibility Matters

Methodological Appendix
Notes
Works Cited
Index

Out in Africa

UMP blog - Invisibility and its advantages: Why LGBT rights activists in Africa sometimes strategize to remain hidden

When people learn that I study lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) organizing in southern Africa, their eyes usually widen with interest.

“You mean, there is LGBT activism in Africa?,” they ask eagerly.


I tell them that in fact, LGBT activism is quite vibrant in many African nations. Typically, interlocutors go on to explain that what little they know about the situation of African LGBT persons is mostly negative. They will cite the 2011 murder of David Kato, a fearless LGBT rights defender in Uganda; the rapes and murders of black South African lesbians; or the frequent anti-gay rhetoric from some African state leaders whose ranks have swelled in the past few years to include the late Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika,
Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, alongside leaders like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who has been making anti-gay threats since 1995.

Read the full article.