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Title: The cultural politics of female same-sex intimacy in post-apartheid South Africa
Author: Gunkel, Henriette
ISNI:       0000 0001 1453 4714
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2007
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In 1996 South Africa became the first country in the world that explicitly incorporated lesbian and gay rights within the Bill of Rights of the post-apartheid constitution. Since then the discussion and proclamation of sexual identities has increasingly emerged. This has brought not only the subject of rights but also the question of gender relations and cultural authenticity, as visible for example in the emerging populist notion of homosexuality as un-African, into the focus of the nation state's politics. The thesis examines the politics behind the claim homosexuality is un-African and its historical anchorage in the history of colonialism and apartheid. The thesis explores how colonialism and apartheid have historically shaped constructions of gender and sexuality and how these concepts are not only re-introduced by discourses of homosexuality as un-African but also through the post-apartheid constitution itself. As the interpretation of rights in relation to sexuality generally focuses on gay identities this thesis reflects on the effects of these discourses on non-normative modes of sexuality and intimacy. More specifically the thesis focuses on the interviews that I have conducted in Johannesburg on 'mummy-baby' relationships. By contextualizing these relationships in the historical and cultural framework of sexual cultures and cultures of intimacy this thesis argues that the South African history and cultures provided/provide a space which accommodates forms of female same-sex intimacy that are not necessarily linked to metropolitan sexual cultures. The thesis discusses the tensions between nonlesbian same-sex intimacy and metropolitan lesbianism and it explores the extent that these forms of intimacy are further marginalized by a post-apartheid constitution which reinforces a homosexual/heterosexual binarized identity. Therefore, the thesis questions the regulatory functions of identity and (Western) notions of sexual subjectivities and problematizes the practice of 'coming out' as always being a liberating moment. To do this the thesis pays attention to cultural and historical categories of sexualities, to normative and/or subversive forms of masculinities and femininities, and to social inclusion and exclusion on the basis of gender, sexuality and race. By doing so the thesis explores the suitability of queer theory in the South African context.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available