3rd Annual AADS Humanities Afternoon Afro-Homo: Norming Nation, Norming Sex

Event information
Venue:Green Library, Room 220

Third African & African Diaspora Studies Humanities Afternoon


Florida International University
November 9, 2012
Modesto Maidique Campus
11200 SW 8th Street
Green Library, Room 220
Miami, FL 33199

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Organized by the African & African Diaspora Studies Program, and co-sponsored by:

AADS Graduate Student Association, Books and Books, Council of Student Organizations, Center for the Humanities in an Urban Environment,Departments of English,FIU Alumni Association, Global and Social Cultural Studies,Modern Languages,Politics and International Relations,The Latin American and Caribbean Center,The Women's Studies Center, and WPBT2.
Program of Events

The last several years have seen escalating concerns in the global north (largely the US and EU) for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or otherwise non-normatively identified sexual minorities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Acts of violence against queer individuals and communities now command global publicity. Such concern tends to “norm” the nations of the global south as innately homophobic while simultaneously bringing them into alignment with supposedly “Western” social and political norms.

Nowhere has worry over anti-queer violence been more vocally pronounced than in 2010, as Western gay-rights activists and some “first-world” governments denounced the nation of Uganda for its so-called “Kill the Gays” legislation. Promoted by a handful of anti-gay campaigners in Uganda, and their US supporters in the Christian far right, this legislation would have augmented the criminal penalty of “aggressive homosexuality” to include capital punishment. In the years that followed, new criminal statutes against homosexuality were introduced in several African nations, which had already made homosexuality a serious offence. Many of these targeted same-sex marriage in particular as a pernicious social and sexual dynamic imported from the West.

Although new laws targeting queers concern rights activists working across Africa, the outrage directed at already fragile states in the sub-Sahara by key western leaders/the west has been noted. This includes:

• Prime Minister David Cameron’s late-2011 threat to suspend development assistance, if not humanitarian aid, to African nations that passed any additional laws targeting sexual minorities; • Hilary Clinton’s chastising rhetoric in her speech delivered before the UN declaring “gay rights are human rights;” • and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s own request that laws criminalizing homosexuality be universally lifted by member states.

Indeed, with regard to African foreign policy and rights agendas, the last two years have been punishing ones.

Might we describe this moment as the queer disciplining of Africa and the Caribbean? What assumptions and attitudes persist when the global north gazes down upon predominantly black African and Afro-Caribbean nations like Uganda or Jamaica?

This one-day symposium brings together prominent scholars, writers, artists and activists from Africa, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora to ask the following questions: • What developments, setbacks, and tensions are most relevant to the lives of queer and gender non-normative individuals and communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and the diaspora? • How are local grassroots organizations responding to the “norming” incumbencies of the global north? • What historical/cultural/social/economic concerns specific to Africa, the Caribbean, and the diaspora problematize the current approach by the global north of norming nations by norming sex? • How might queer activists—whether local, national, regional or transnational—develop more effective and ethical projects outside of the prescriptions and imperatives of the global north and its respective agencies? • What are the limitations of the nation-state as a paradigm for queer activism and/or queer theory in Africa, the Caribbean, and the diaspora? • To what extent is the outrage over “African” homophobia less about disciplining particular nations than about racializing entire populations, allowing, for example, the simultaneous abjection of Jamaicans, Ugandans, and African Americans as irredeemably and indistinguishably homophobic? • Is there political efficacy for queer and gender non-normative communities in Africa, the Caribbean, and the diaspora to strategically align with this “top-down” approach? What are the potential benefits/drawbacks? • How might those living and working in the north address both African and Afro-Caribbean sexualities and governance without reducing these quite distinct locales to Euro-American theoretical and discursive models? • How might the work of scholars in the humanities in particular, along with the engagement of writers and artists in and outside of Africa and the Caribbean, contribute to productive queer activism and a much-needed dialogue on the divergent interests of queer communities situated in quite distinct locales?

November 9, 2012 GL 220 Schedule of Events:

2:00-2:15: Welcoming Remarks Dr. Jean Muteba Rahier
Director of the African & African Diaspora Studies Program (AADS), FIU

2:15-2:30: Introduction of Guest Speakers
Dr. Steven Blevins, Department of English and AADS Affiliate Faculty

2:30:3:00: "Traditional Modernity: Homosexuality and Customary Law in South Africa."
Dr. Neville Hoad, University of Texas at Austin

3:00-3:15: Questions & Answers

3:15-3:45: "Women Loving Women in Sub-Saharan Africa"
Dr. Frieda Ekotto, University of Michigan

3:45-4:00: Questions & Answers

4:00-4:30: "A Nation of Sodomites; or, What the Writer Said to the Activist and the Activist to the Writer."
Dr. Thomas Glave, State University of New York, Binghamton; 2012-2013 Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge, the UK.

4:30-5:00: Questions & Answers and Open Discussion

5:00-5:15 Closing remarks and Invitation to Reception
Dr. Heather Russell Dept. of English and AADS Graduate Program Director

5:15-7:00: Reception (Light Refreshments)

5:30-6:00: One Man Performance: “Black LGBT Lives and the Violence of Epidemics in the U.S.: A Performance for Survival."
Dr. Marlon Bailey, Indiana University-Bloomington

6:00-6:15: Questions & Answers