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The normal homosexual in post-apartheid South Africa : new queer geographies Oswin, Natalie

Abstract

In the United States, from whence much of Euroamerican queer theorizing stems, the radical heritage of the gay and lesbian movement has been dealt a serious blow by the emergence of a "new gay politics" that aims simply to secure a place at the table for the "good gay" citizen. Thus a line between the normal and the queer has been conceptually entrenched. The maintenance of such a binary is problematic because it betrays the underpinnings of queer theory. It also limits the ways in which we understand queer normalizations as they have taken place in various contexts around the globe over the last decade. There is a worldwide (though sporadic and diffuse) trend towards greater recognition of human rights for sexual minorities at the national scale. Further, the purported economic benefits of gay-friendliness have given rise to official pink tourism marketing strategies. This thesis examines the validity of the queer-normal divide outside the heated context of the United States by considering the cultural politics of homosexuality in South Africa. In 1996, South Africa became the first country in the world to constitutionally affirm homosexuals' rights. Since then, the state has made gay-friendliness a central facet of tourism marketing strategies at both the local and national scales. It is thus officially normal to be queer in post-apartheid South Africa. Utilizing archival and qualitative methods, I have examined expressions of gay and lesbian culture and politics in the country and found neither the straightforward appropriation of queerness by the state or market nor a resistant queer politics outside their purview. Queer theorists within and beyond geography are used to theorizing from a position of exclusion just as scholars engaged in feminist and anti-racist studies are. But since the queer and the normal coexist in South Africa, I conclude that the tendency to dismiss spaces of inclusion as inconsequential sites of study renders our analyses of the nature and extent of space available to identity politics struggles partial. As such, I suggest that those working on geographies of sexualities might usefully explore the notion of a queer geopolitics.

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