This event has been cancelled. It will be rescheduled in the fall. Check for updates.
Resident Scholars and Artists Lecture Series
"Fiction, Memoir and the Public Privacies of Queer Africa"
In this paper I discuss the role of autobiographies about sexual and religious identity in shaping ideas about national belonging in post-apartheid South Africa. Activist memoirs such as Hijab: Unveiling Queer Muslim Lives (2009) and autobiographical fiction such as Queer Africa: New and Collected Fiction (2013) convey the ordinary reality of sexual diversity on the continent, thereby making powerful new claims on national space which has been shaped both by the constitutional protection of sexual orientation as a category of identity, and homophobia. In 2014, the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina published an autobiographical essay titled “I’m a Homosexual, Mum,” which he called a “lost chapter” of his 2011 memoir One Day I Will Write About This Place. Drawing from such instances, I explore how diverse genres of fiction and self-writing, including autobiographical fiction and experimental forms of communal autobiography, and their intricate patterns of silence and voice, occlusion and assertion, intimate and national, and loss and restitution, engage public silences (and hostile expressions) about sexuality and culture. I propose that the formal complexity and radical themes of such texts shape important new definitions of authenticity and belonging.
Light lunch at 11:45 a.m. Presentation starts promptly at 12:00 p.m.