The Oxford Queer Studies Network is delighted to welcome to Oxford Neville Hoad, Associate Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. Professor Hoad is the author of African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization (Minnesota 2007) and co-editor (with Karen Martin and Graeme Reid) of Sex & Politics in South Africa: Equality/Gay & Lesbian Movement/the anti-Apartheid Struggle (Double Storey 2005). He is currently working on a book project about the literary and cultural representations of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to a sequel to African Intimacies entitled Erotopolitics: Africa, Sovereignty, Sexuality.
Professor Hoad’s paper explores concepts of embodiment in a recent South African memoir, an auto-ethnographic text that is part cultural analysis, part memoir, part manifesto, Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde’s Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma (2008). This text brings the full and sometimes contradictory range of what Beth Povinelli calls the genealogical (aligned with the customary, even the traditional) and the autological (aligned with legal liberalism) into view in an extraordinary story of ethical self-fashioning. Nkabinde writes movingly about the calls and counter calls of her ancestors and the lesbian and gay organizations she is part of in Johannesburg, her work as a sangoma and as a tour guide at Constitution Hill, which becomes a place haunted by the ghosts of all the prisoners held there when it was a prison, allowing ancestors to become political and not only genealogical. Nkaminde’s text allows us to imagine how the past continues to write the present. How bodies, real and imagined, constitute themselves through competing, even contradictory historical imaginings is the driving question of this paper.
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