Making “Quare” Spaces: Re-membering Childhood as a Queer Practice of Indigenous African Place-making

Master Thesis


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Queers of colour are in real and constant danger as they are not seen to belong neatly to either Western queer culture (due to their blackness) or African culture (due to their queerness). This discursive violence legitimizes actual violence on black queer bodies. This research project uses performance as a tool to address black queer erasure and aims to debunk the tired claim that queerness is un-African. In my final thesis production and its accompanying explication, I engage with memory and practices of queer self-fashioning as a means of contesting oppressive, hegemonic, and heteronormative ideologies of gendered racial belonging. Memory thus serves as both a critical concept and an aesthetic impulse in my practice of queer space making. I use performances of intimate childhood memories of shame and othering to articulate how black queer subjects emerge in distinct relation and/or contra-position to the white Euro-American identity construct that dominates understanding of queer citizenship and politics. In so doing, I work towards naming and enacting a “quare” (Johnson, 2001, p. 8) politics that attends to the specificity of black queer lifeworlds. Producing a counterhegemonic queer space that is attentive to the potentially generative tensions between “queerness” and black African indigenous ontologies enables the envisioning and affirming of black African queer subjectivity in all its complexity. I use Johnson's critical reframing of ‘queer' as ‘quare' as the basis for my engagement with queerof-colour critiques of hetero- and homonormativity. Quare in this research study is deployed as part of various contemporary endeavours to locate racialised and class knowledge in identity. It is also used to articulate genderqueer and sexually non-conforming subjectivities such that ways of knowing are viewed both as “discursively mediated and as historically situated and materially conditioned” (Johnson, 2001, p. 13). The practice of self-reflexivity through performance is posited as a method for self-image fashioning in this study. Further, I show in my performance work that Johnson's (2001) construal of self-image-making and performativity have potential for restoring subjectivity and agency through the performance of self.