STREAM: Gender and Sexuality

STREAM: Gender and Sexuality

Within African Studies, the concepts of “gender” and “sexuality” have followed complex and sometimes contradictory trajectories that are only partially intertwined. While gender has a relatively long history in African studies, sexuality has only recently gained empirical visibility and analytical importance. Gender and sexuality have also, however, been subject to both subtle and radical critiques questioning their theoretical reach and heuristic value from African perspectives. Africanist scholars have, for instance, questioned the binary structure of gender (Amadiume 1987) or exposed its ethnocentric presuppositions as a Western concept (Oyěwùmí 1997). More recently, ethnographic studies have undermined the binary opposition between “heterosexuality” and “homosexuality” by foregrounding sexual fluidities and ambiguities (Dankwa 2009), while some have called for re-thinking or even un-thinking “sexuality” in African Studies (Arnfred 2004; Hendriks & Spronk 2018).

This Gender & Sexuality stream invites panels that engage with and develop these African(ist) trajectories and critiques. Arguing that gender and sexuality are two separate but mutually constitutive concepts, this stream asks panels to question not only the differences between men and women but also to explore distinctions and unequal relations made within these gendered identities and their erotic expressions. For instance, while in recent years, Africanist scholars have highlighted the vibrancy and plurality of gendered and sexual realities, it is undeniable that women also routinely lose out to men and that dissident sexual identities and desires are increasingly subject to homophobic reactions and violence. In order to better understand these concrete realities, we call upon panellists to reflect upon the nuanced ways in which sexual and gendered norms are both produced and contested on the continent.

We thus invite both scholars and activists to propose interdisciplinary and/or comparative panels that critically interrogate the discursive and experiential dimensions of gender and sexuality. How are these concepts imagined, experienced, performed and challenged in various places, cultures, and times across Africa? How do/did people construct (normative or subversive) gendered and sexualised identities? What is/was the politics of sexual and gender dissidence in African presents and pasts? What role, if any, do/did affective economies play in how people (individuals and groups) come to understand and realise gendered identities and desires? We particularly welcome panels that seek to understand how gender and sexuality both shape and are shaped by other facets of social, cultural, political, and economic life. How, for instance, do gender and sexuality intersect with life stages, ethnicity, place and space, political representation and participation, labour regimes, class formation, religion, popular culture, media and ITC technologies, or occult imaginaries?


The organisers invite abstracts to the two following panels, and welcome any other panel proposals. 

Articulations of Generation, Gender & Sexuality

Convenor: Dr Juliet Gilbert (University of Birmingham)

Over the past twenty plus years, Africanists have paid increasing attention to the concept of generation (e.g. Comaroff & Comaroff 1999:284), giving value not only to knowing how age categories are defined but also to understanding how age groups relate to one another. Despite inequality being a recurrent theme of generation in Africa, analyses have had a tendency to highlight difference between age categories, consequently insinuating homogeneity within a generation. For instance, growing scholarship on Africa’s ‘youth crisis’ has made critical contributions to understanding contemporary African societies by examining the experiences of young people trying to ‘grow up’. Yet although analyses have uncovered youth cultures from the vibrant to the mundane and, in so doing, celebrated youthful agency, these works have largely focused on the experiences of young men. Equally, this empirical focus on youth has drawn attention to cultures of eroticism and desire. However, this important scholarly forum for non-heterosexual expressions in Africa has has largely ignored how sexuality is shaped, experienced and contested beyond the youthful generation. Both empirically and analytically, there is much to gain from paying close attention to how generation intersects with gender and sexuality.

This panel invites papers that examine the empirical and analytical articulations of gender, sexuality and generation in past and present African realities. Does gender influence how individuals experience or relate to juvenescence, adulthood or elderhood? How do gendered and sexualised subjects not only construct present identities but also ‘grow up’/work towards traversing age categories? How can we compare the lived experiences of gendered youth and elders, taking into account both normative and deviant sexualities? As the panel seeks to interrogate the concept of generation by opening up a discussion for difference, it welcomes papers that critically engage with the concepts of gender and sexuality by examining how certain identities are formed and contested at distinct life stages.


Sex, Mobility and Migration

Convenor: Dr Thomas Hendriks (University of Oxford)

Past and present experiences across Africa suggest that gender and sexuality both shape and are shaped by mobility. Everyday realities and ideologies of gender and sexuality are indeed profoundly affected by the multiple movements of people, things and ideas, which are themselves triggered, channelled and controlled by sexual and gendered imaginations, inequalities and economies of desire. This interdisciplinary panel calls for paper proposals by scholars and activists that critically reflect on the articulations between gender, sexuality and mobility from a diversity of past and present realities on and beyond the African continent.

This panel is particularly interested in – but not limited by – the following topics:

(1)  The sexual aspects of past and present labour migration

(2)  Past and present geographies of sex work

(3)  The sexual politics of migration, its control and surveillance

(4)  Migration, intimacy and sexual violence

(5)  The articulations between mobility, sexual identity and erotic cultures

(6)  Contemporary realities of love, marriage and mobility

(7)  The use and effects of social media and dating apps

(8)  Mobility, migration and ethno-erotic economies

(9)  Urban mobilities and geographies of dissidence and normativity

Confirmed Panels

Panel 1: Sexualities and Culture 1

Chair: Spronk, Rachel (Associate professor, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)

  • Sexuality and Culture in Postcolonial Nigeria, Ikwuemesi, Chuu (University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nsukka, Nigeria)
  • Homophobia, Femininity, and the Production of Heterosexual Masculinity in Jude Dibia’s Walking with Shadows, Ogunfolabi, Kayode Omoniyi (Department of English, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria)
  • Politics of Naming and Owning in Gender and Sexuality, Wabende, Kimingichi (University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya)

Panel 2: Sexualities and Culture 2

Chair: Arnfred, Signe (Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)

  • Erotic Expressions Between Homosexuals in Ghana, Opare, Grace (University of Gha, Accra, Ghana)
  • Curing Queer Souls: Queer Identity and the Gay Conversion Therapy Movement in Africa, Johnstone, Lyn (Royal Holloway University of London, London, United Kingdom)
  • Gender, age, and seniority: female and male same-sex intimacies in Ghana, Gore, Ellie (University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom)

Panel 3: Gender, Violence and Ethics

Chair: TBC

  • Sexual Violence against Female Adolescents and its Challenges to Nigeria’s Development in the 21st Century: Narration Analysis of Selected Victims, Nwaolikpe, Onyinyechi Nancy (Caleb University, Imota Lagos State, Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria)
  • Socio-Cultural Implications Sexual Violence of Women in South-East Nigeria, Ohia, Nkiru Christiana (University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nsukka, Nigeria)
  • Factors that drive women into sex work in Lira town, Northern Uganda, Atim, Teddy (Feinstein International Center, Tufts University and Wageningen University, Netherlands, Medford, United States)
  • Maternal Embodiment: Home, Ethics, and Responsibility in Abidemi Sanusi’s Eyo, Amoke, Anene Kevin (Lancaster University, Lancaster, United Kingdom)

Panel 4: Articulations of Generation, Gender and Sexuality 1

Chair: Gilbert, Juliet (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)

  • Agreement Relationships: Elders and the Negotiation of Social and Economic Mobility in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Schneider, Luisa Theresia (Oxford University, Oxford, United Kingdom)
  • “The way you all talk, laugh can determine who you are”: Performing Gendered Educated Identities in Post-Conflict Northern Uganda, Rydberg, Nancy (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States)
  • From Theories to Praxis: A Linguistic Exploration of Female Artistes’ ‘Responses’ to Patriarchy and Gender Stereotypes in Nigerian Hip-Hop, Onanuga, Paul (Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Oye-Ekiti, Nigeria)
  • ‘You cannot be like that here’: Discourses of Sexual Identities Among Urban Ghanaian Families, Dery, Isaac (University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

Panel 5: Articulations of Generation, Gender and Sexuality 2

Chair: Gilbert, Juliet (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)

  • Women Voices: Handicapped Women and Sexuality, Liberato, Ermelinda (Social Sciences Faculty – Agostinho Neto University, Luanda, Angola)
  • Sexuality as Resistance? Arnfred, Signe (Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)
  • Erasing and Remembering ‘Tradition’ in the Generation of ‘Modern’ Sexual Identities in Kenya, Hassinen, Sini (Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)
  • “Enchanted Selves, Desirable Others: Dress, Sexuality and Technologies of Enchantment Among Young Bamileke Women in Yaounde, Cameroon, Majczak, Ewa (Oxford University, Brussels, Belgium)

Panel 6: Sex, mobility and migration 1 

Chair: Hendriks, Thomas (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)

  • ‘Roaming, Inhabiting, Lingering’: Nairobi and the Queer In-Betweens! Ombagi, Eddie (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Braamfontein, South Africa)
  • Dreams of Mobility: Football, Pentecostal Christianity, and Dangers of Sex in Southwest Cameroon, Kovač, Uroš (University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • Volatile Communities: Sex Works Negotiating Violence at the Border, Animashaun, Modupe (University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)

Panel 7: Sex, mobility and migration 2

Chair: Hendriks, Thomas (University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom)

  • Rumours and Respectability: Anxieties of mobility, intimacy and anonymity in urban Nigeria, Gilbert, Juliet (University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom)
  • Young Men on the Move in Swakopmund, Namibia, Boulton, Jack (Doctoral student KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
  • Emasculation and Its Psychosocial Effects on Male Migrants in Irene Isoken-Salami’s Sweet Revenge, Olabisi, Jegede, Francis (Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, Otto/Ijanikin, Lagos, Nigeria)
  • Intimate Relationships in Chinese-Malagasy Encounters: Masculine Anxiety, Female Agency and Ambiguous Morality, Zhang, Mingyuan (University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)

Panel 8: Girls, Violence, and Victimhood

  • African Girls’ Memories of Violence in Apartheid South Africa, Bridger, Emily (University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom)
  • Violence and Victimhood? Girl Soldiers’ Memoirs and Humanitarian Discourses on Child Soldiering, c.1996-2014, Hynd, Stacey (University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom)
  • Girlhood, work, and the regulation of child labour in Zambia, Hepburn, Sacha (University of Warwick, Warwick, United Kingdom)
  • “The Accused is Not My Husband”: Girls contesting forced marriages in 1940s Kenya, Keysa, Rhian (University of Exeter, Exeter, United Kingdom)

Panel 9: Masculinities in Africa during War and its Wake

  • Civilian Masculinities in Peacebuilding – The Trappings of Pride, Entitlement and Powerlessness, Myrttinen, Henri (International Alert, London, United Kingdom) and Laruni, Elizabeth (International Alert, London, United Kingdom)
  • At Home and in the Bush: Coercion, Agency and Desire Amongst Male Ex-Combatants, Porter, Holly (London School of Economics and Political Science, Camden, United Kingdom)
  • Soldiers, Sacred Waters and Landscapes: Zimbabwean Soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo War (1998-2002), Maringira, Godfrey (University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa)
  • “I used to be a strong man, but now I am not” – Examining Male Sexual Violence Survivors’ Gendered Harms and Vulnerabilities, Schulz, Philipp (University of Bremen, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies, Bremen, Germany)

If you have any queries or suggestions please contact Juliet Gilbert (  and Thomas Hendriks (  For panel and paper submissions please follow the instructions on the website 

Photo Credit: Juliet Gilbert

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