TALASI: Queer Vernaculars of Non-Conformity in Southern Africa


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Insitute for Humanities in Africa


It is often understood that sexual and gender non-conformity are foreign to Africa, to the extent that popular notions such as 'homosexuality is unAfrican' even go unchallenged. The claims that Africa is heteronormative, and that discourses of non-heteronormativity and non-conformity are Western (European and North-American) should both be challenged. This project aims to address these discourses, not necessarily to prove/disprove their merits, rather to resurface ways of being and speaking about gender and sexual non-conformity in Southern Africa. At the same time, new terms are developing, many being brought into popular discourses by cultural activists or practictioners. ?In South Africa alone, the project tracks at least five vernacular terms that are no longer in circulation (mainly because of language loss, or influence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (lgbt) discourses) and investigates the underlying meanings of these terms and how they were made use of in earlier times, as well as the ways in which they speak to current terms. Through oral histories, popular culture, interviews and archival research this project tracks vernacular terms of gender and sexual non-conformity and returns them to everyday discourses.