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Project's Title:

Mapping the Public Space of Gender and LGBTQ+ Mobilizations in Angola. A Research Agenda

In our research team, our primary goal is to map gender struggles and recognitions in Angola, by identifying spaces, events and actors involved and situating them within more overarching debates concerning gender activism at an African and global level. Angola, is so far, an understudied case in the African continent in what concerns struggles for gender recognition. The country’s progressive juridical framework, coupled with an emergent activist LGBTQ+ movement, the heteronormative ideology of gender reinforced by religious agents, older, emic gender categorisations and practices of everyday resistance, provides a critical case study to think about gender politics in contemporary Africa.

We will focus on LGBTQ+ activism and its different interlocutors in what we call the public space of gender and sexuality in the country understood preliminarily in a Habermasian fashion as the space in which civic and institutional actors express, convey and enforce their perspectives on a given subject. In this framework the interrogation of the notion of “activism” is necessary.

The case study of LGBTQ+ activism in Angola is a fundamental contribution to the research of social change in Africa, namely through the focus on its contemporary civil society and its formation. In particular, we integrate the case study on gender activism in Angola within wider debates on contemporary social movements and political activism in Africa, with struggles that intersect those of gender activism – e.g. human rights, citizenship and the right to the city, “true democracy”, active citizenship, capitalism, well-being and spiritual/religious freedom and citizenship.

We intend to cover a significant gap and provide new data for recent studies on gender and queer movements in/from Africa (Nyeck. S.N. 2020; Ekine & Abbas 2013, Tamale 2011), considering recent legislative developments regarding LGBTQ+ activity in the country. In particular, we intend to reflect on contemporary gender and LGBTQ+ spatialities in Angolan context as an emergent social, political and religious issue (Spronk and Hendriks 2020; Nyeck 2020), framed as an (re)emerging counterpublic spatiality in the African context (McCann 2011; Bryan 2019).

Focusing on Angola we are able to access unique insight into globalised gender and LGBTQ+ identities and activism from the Lusophone angle. This opens a new field for comparison of the multiple dynamics of cosmopolitisation, authentication, localisation (Ocholla 2010; Matabeni 2014; Nyanzi 2014; Van Klinken 2020) and intersectionality (Holland-Muter 2019) of gender and LGBTQ+ issues within the African continent. Furthermore, including comparative context from Central Eastern Europe is expected to contextualise Angolan case with different public spaces of gender developing in hegemonic socio-religious environments.

We perceive the public space of gender in Angola as one dominated by operative notions of taboo and politics of distinction/discrimination, and populated by civic society agents, such as religious institutions, and family structures rooted in both local traditions, and colonial/postcolonial heritage, for instance. Thus, the emancipatory movements towards gender awakening in Angola represent a necessary challenge to this public space.


Natalia Zawiejska:

Ruy Blanes: