Worlding Sexualities under Apartheid: From Gay Liberation to a Queer Afropolitanism

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This essay examines gay journalism as gay liberation literature to model a cultural history of sexuality informed by comparative urban and queer studies. My argument is that gay liberation literature under apartheid lags behind important shifts in sexual activism; and my aim is to extend the valences of postcolonial queer studies towards a historical examination of North-South interactions in theorizing sexual rights activism. The primary archive used is Link/Skakel, the official newsletter of the Gay Association of South Africa (GASA), which soon became a mainstream gay newspaper called Exit. I first describe debates around the term Afropolitanism to describe how the development of a gay and lesbian subculture in Johannesburg was influenced by models of gay consumerism and activism in the North. Next, I examine the controversial legal reforms initiated by GASA without challenging racial discrimination and segregation, reflecting a consumption based identity politics. The direction of comparison from North-South and the exclusivist racial and gendered assumptions were challenged by a ‘queer Afropolitanism’ connecting racial and sexual liberation, articulated first by lesbians in GASA and later, the Gays and Lesbians of Witwatersrand (GLOW). In conclusion, I indicate how the transformation of the Johannesburg based gay liberation movement reflecting sexual, racial, and geographical diversity is not reflected in its associated publications, which degenerate into tabloid style journalism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-52
Number of pages16
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2016


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