09:00 - 10:30
Room: Arts – Lecture Room 5
Stream: Text, Paratext and Context in African Autobiographical Narratives
Dina Ligaga
Narrative Sexualities and Theologies in Kenyan Queer Autobiographical Storytelling
Adriaan van Klinken
University of Leeds, Leeds

A relatively recent trend among African LGBTI activists is to document “queer Africa” through the building of archives of African queer life stories. One example of this trend is the project Stories of Our Lives, initiated by the Nairobi-based arts collective The Nest, resulting in the publication of a film (2014) and anthology (2015). This paper focuses on the anthology: a collection of over 250 autobiographical stories narrated by people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or otherwise queer in Kenya, that have been collected and published by The Nest. The paper discusses Stories of Our Lives through two analytical lenses: narrative sexualities (Plummer 2015) and narrative theologies (Ganzevoort 2013). It aims to examine the narrative constructions of, and negotiations between sexual and religious (mainly Christian) identities in the collected stories. Thereto the paper builds on feminist, postcolonial and queer scholarship on storytelling as a way to reclaim and perform epistemic and political agency (Jackson 2013; Stone-Mediatore 2003). In particular, it engages with African feminist theological work on storytelling as spiritually empowering and theologically significant (Nadar 2009, 2014; Phiri, Govinden and Nadar 2002). Hence the paper proposes to read Stories of Our Lives not only as a major contribution to the building of African queer archives (Macharia 2015; Migraine-George & Currier 2016), but as a steppingstone towards the development of an African grassroots queer theology. Read through the lens of narrative sexualities, the stories collected in Stories of Our Lives demonstrate the instability and inadequacy of Western LGBTI categories to capture and signify Kenyan queer lives. Read through the lens of African narrative theologies, the stories challenge both the myths of queer sexuality as “un-African” and of Christianity as inherently “homophobic”, as they give insight into the strategies of, and resources for Kenyan LGBTI people to narratively negotiate their sexual and religious selves. This reading also addresses the difficulty that Queer Studies historically has had to acknowledge religion, spirituality and faith as sites of queer agency (Wilcox 2006) and argues that for African Queer Studies to be truly decolonial, a post-secular intervention is needed.


Ganzevoort, Ruard R. “Introduction: Religious Stories We Live By.” In Religious Stories We Live By: Narrative Approaches in Theology and Religious Studies, edited by Ruard R. Ganzevoort, Maaike de Haardt, and Michael Scherer-Rath, 1–17. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2013.

Jackson, Michael. The Politics of Storytelling: Variations on a Theme by Hannah Arendt. 2nd ed. Copenhagen: Museum Musculanum Press, 2013.

Macharia, Keguro. “Archive and Method in Queer African Studies.” Agenda 29, no. 1 (2015): 140–46. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10130950.2015.1010294.

Migraine-George, Thérèse, and Ashley Currier. “Querying Queer African Archives: Methods and Movements.” WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly 44, no. 3–4 (2016): 190–207.

Nadar, Sarojini. “Her-Stories and Her-Theologies: Charting Feminist Theologies in Africa.” Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 35 (2009): 135–50.

———. “‘Stories Are Data with Soul’: Lessons from Black Feminist Epistemology.” Agenda 28, no. 1 (2014): 18–28.

Phiri, Isabel A., Devarakshanam Betty Govinden, and Sarojini Nadar, eds. Her-Stories: Hidden Histories of Women of Faith in Africa. Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2002.

Stone-Mediatore, Shari. Reading across Borders: Storytelling and Knowledges of Resistance. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003.

Wilcox, Melissa M. “Outlaws or In-Laws? Queer Theory, LGBT Studies, and Religious Studies.” Journal of Homosexuality 52, no. 1–2 (2006): 73–100.

Th-A41 Autobiography 4-P-002
Adriaan van Klinken
Presentation type:
Arts – Lecture Room 5
Dina Ligaga
Thursday, 13 September
09:15 - 09:30
Session times:
09:00 - 10:30