Sexing the Subject: Fictional Representations of Sexualities from Authoritarian African Contexts


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Department of English


This study investigates the contentious subject of sexualities as represented in fiction from selected Anglophone African countries which, even in the post-independence era, have tended to enforce authoritarian, heteropatriarchal control over citizens' bodies and sexualities. The study explores how contemporary African writers, writing in (or in relation to) repressive contexts, represent uneasy intersections between socio-cultural understandings of sexuality, gender, and desire, entailing varieties of relation such as control, reciprocity, negotiation and resistance. Such ambiguities attest to the complexity of understanding and representing sexualities in Africa, and that fiction, precisely because of its capacity to engage uncertainty, comprises an important mode of mediating repressive socio-political and cultural norms, showing the potential for fiction as a space which engages risky, even taboo, topics. The study argues that through the narrative spaces of fiction, contemporary African authors highlight the tensions and contradictions which shape sexualities, with regimes of sexual knowledge being always in a process of relational negotiation, even in coercive socio-political contexts.