Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa

Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa

Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa

Re-Thinking Sexualities in Africa


The volume brings together papers by African and Nordic /Scandinavian gender scholars and anthropologists in an attempt to investigate and critically discuss existing lines of thinking about sexuality in Africa, while at the same time creating space for alternative approaches. Issues of colonial and contemporary discourses on 'African sexuality' and on 'female genital mutilation' are being discussed, as well as issues of female agency and of feminists' engagement with HIV/AIDS. The volume contributes to contemporary efforts of re-thinking sexualities in the light of feminist, queer and postcolonial theory.


The time has come for re-thinking sexualities in Africa: The thinking beyond the conceptual structure of colonial and even post-colonial European imaginations, which have oscillated between notions of the exotic, the noble and the depraved savage, consistently however constructing Africans and African sexuality as something ‘other’. This ‘other’ thing is constructed to be not only different from European/Western sexualities and self, but also functions to co-construct that which is European/Western as modern, rational and civilized.

In a context of empirical studies as in this volume, re-thinking necessitates a double move of de-construction and re-construction, developing an analysis whereby, through critique of previous conceptualisations, attempts are made to approach materials in new ways, coming up with fresh or alternative lines of thinking. The chapters in the first section—Under Western Eyes—are various versions of this type of exercise; they are all polemical against established, mainstream lines of thinking regarding gender and sexuality in Africa, and they all show in their different ways how alternative approaches produce different images —and concomitantly different realities. In one of the chapters (Jungar and Oinas) such mainstream lines of thinking, applied particularly in contexts of HIV/ AIDS investigations and with an undertone of ‘Africa is lost anyway’ are dubbed ‘dark continent discourse’. I find this a very fitting expression, which I shall apply in the following discussion.

In the second section—Problems of Pleasure and Desire—the concerns are different, in some sense building upon the first section, taking the issues one step further. Here the focus is on investigation of areas, which have often been rendered invisible by mainstream thinking. The areas here under investigation are male and female lust and desire. A regards female sexual desire in particular, it has rarely been an object of analysis. If it has, it has generally been in a context of or with undertones of moral condemnation. Rarely has it been written about from the points of view of the women. In this section issues of male and female sexual lust and desire are analyzed and discussed by African male and female social scientists, based on analysis of empirical material, and with the benefit of experiences of the authors themselves.

In the third section the focus is on Female Agency. From different professional inroads—literature and social anthropology—current socio-economic changes in African societies are investigated, particularly as impacting on gender power relations, and different suggestions in terms of patterns of interpretation of current trends are presented. Uniting these chapters is an analytical concern with investi-

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