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Table of contents (5 chapters)
About this book
To achieve something by way of negation is not just to state a difference. It is to impose a certain kind of violence and domination on things so ordered around for the sake of epistemic, religious, or political expediency also. The notion of queerness presented in this book takes the view that the process of conceptualizing selves “out-of-order” is fundamentally anti-dialectical, negotiated, political and spiritual. Queerness negation manifested as a form of colonial and postcolonial epistemic and political violence defines reality as the clash of ideal and non-ideal categories. The demand to achieve something by way of negation that dialectics imposes on itself is costly because it treats negation as inevitable. From an anti-dialectical standpoint, analyses of the films Proteus and Karmen Geï deal with the processes of freeing queer selves from colonial and postcolonial negation. The book reflects on the conditions and possibilities of queerness affirmation as an ethics of presence grounded in the politics of negotiation following the proposition of nego-feminism and the practical humanism of Senghor to offer an ethical and embodied vision of an ecological depth of feeling and will as foundational to relational possibilities within the African(a) world.
- Queer politics
- African queer politics
- sexual orientation
- African government
- Human rights
- Queer agency
- Political equality
- African film
- Touki Bouki & Karmen Gel
- Madame Brouette
- Simulation and simulcra
- Game Theory
- Identity Negotiation
- African obscurentism
- Queer enlightenment
In this field expanding work, S.N. Nyeck opens overlapping conversations on themes that address the “relational dimension of everyday African queer life and belonging” with the aim to “retrieve queer voices and performances” within and beyond today’s identity politics. Her objectives are complex as are her arguments which she plants firmly in multiple theoretical approaches: Nnaemeka Obioma’s nego-feminism, especially the “theology of nearness grounded in the indigenous” and Leopold Senghor’s notion of politics as présence virtuelle in Africana thought. Nyeck’s treatise imagines an amalgam paradigm of queerness, one inflected with Senghorian humanism, especially his eloquent “dance of the soul” to guide the queer search for freedom on a spiritual journey. Not re-engaging Négritude as a cosmopolitan ethics of state decolonization, her journey for queer potentialities resonates with María Lugones’s Playfulness, 'World'-Travelling, and Loving Perception concept of world travelling, the need to comprehend the plurality in and among women (or queers) as central to a compassionate feminist (or Africana queer) epistemology. Like other scholars who now reconsider the works of Senghor, Fanon, and Césaire to disrupt the received interpretation of twentieth century Africana thought, Nyeck finds unrealized potential, and an affinity with an ethics of decolonization and social engagement that avoids situating postcolonial self-determination as state-centric and human rights focused only (Wilder 2015), Freedom Time: Negritude, Decolonization and the Future of the World.
The book is divided into five chapters: the first is a dazzling theoretical riff on the meanings of being queer and queerness, and a challenge to the political underpinnings of queer and feminist theory to date. Nyeck’s operative definition of queerness is that which is “out of order”. It resonates with Mary Douglass’s notion of “matter out of place”, which is to emphasize the socially rejected, non-normative, freakish pushes and pulls, that lead individuals toward new relational possibilities. In this quest, Nyeck examines in two separate chapters same sex (non)erotic encounters of African queer characters in two films, Proteus (South Africa/Canada, 2003) by Jack Lewis and John Greyson, and Karmen Geï (Senegal/France, 2001) the Merimée adaptation of Bizet’s opera directed by Joseph Gaï Ramaka. Proteus is a fraught inter-racial love story between men set in a violence laden eighteenth-century Cape Colony, whereas Karmen Geï takes place in a Senegalese prison on Gorée Island, a former slave trade fort. Senegalese Karmen is fiercely independent and self-defined as well as bisexual in practice. Both films wrestle profoundly at multiple levels with freedom, the difficulties of loving and the meaning of love, erotic freedom and being free, not only to love but to be free of the constraints of the colony and postcolony.
In Africana Queer Presence Nyeck splices together a sustained meditation on queer ethics, theories of queer identity, dialectics, strategic game theory and queer Africana intellectual potential to arrive at a new understanding of queer identity. This book is field changing and field forging; Nyeck invites the reader to engage with a new queer ethics. Her extended questioning of Africana queer existence is thus a multilayered, intellectually inclusive and critical examination of what an African-centered queer studies can become. In part she achieves this through reflecting on the “premise and contradiction of a dialectical approach to social identities” and considering what “queerness adds to our understanding of human subjectivity and social transformation.” Nyeck is a deeply original thinker on all aspects of queer human life, political and spiritual. In African(a) Presence she meditates on humanism and liberty as articulated by both Africana and Western philosophers and artists, and invites us, the readers, to imagine new ways to view queerness and ethical engagement. In this she joins other scholars in critically rethinking the human against the Afro-pessimist argument that anti-Blackness in the postcolonial world denies Africana subjectivity, thereby marking ontological death for Black persons. Instead, she focuses on the heroic quest queer subjects must undertake in order to survive negation as non-identity, thereby leading us to consider not only the struggle, but the self-recognition, even spiritual joy to be secured. No easy feat! This journey is explicated through her nuanced examinations of Proteus and Karmen Geï and their protagonists’ different struggles as incarcerated queers. The queerness negation which Nyeck describes from different angles, is “manifested as a form of colonial and postcolonial epistemic and political violence” which creates a conflicted ideal because negation is accepted as inevitable, whereas the two films portray “processes of freeing queer selves from colonial and postcolonial negation.”
Nyeck is deeply concerned with uncovering the spiritual contours of freedom, moving in syncopation from Senghor and Teilhard de Chardin to Mbembe and Desmond Tutu, before folding in Barbara Holmes, Audre Lorde, and Rabi’a al-Basri among others to conclude with an exposition of Eboussi Boulaga’s Muntu in Crisis: African Authenticity and Philosophy. She convincingly demonstrates how Muntu is complementary to Obioma and Senghor’s works and asks readers to consider adapting the ethics or ethical presence laid out in Muntu. This is an ethics of queer negotiation in identity-making in which the queer subject moves from a discourse of being “in-self” through being “for-self” to being “for-another” (Eboussi Boulaga, 2014:219). Her complex analysis argues powerfully for the “conditions and possibilities of queerness affirmation as an ethics of presence” which should be rooted in a “politics of negotiation based in nego-feminism and Senghor’s practical humanism.” This conclusion urges us to re/consider African(a) ethics and spiritual life as a critical necessity to develop a compassionate life affirming African(a) Queer Studies. This contemplative, perhaps speculative, way forward Nyeck urges, is rooted in African(a) indigenous forms of knowledge which as both Karmen in Karmen Geï and Claas Blank in Proteus demonstrate, need to be carefully scrutinized, as they have themselves been altered and informed by brutal alien knowledge systems." (Kathleen O’Mara, Emeritus Professor of African History, State University of New York - Oneonta)
Authors and Affiliations
Vulnerability and Human Condition, Emory University, Atlanta, USA
About the author
S. N. Nyeck is visiting scholar at the Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative at Emory University, Atlanta, USA and Research Associate with the Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation, CriSHET at Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Book Title: African(a) Queer Presence
Book Subtitle: Ethics and Politics of Negotiation
Authors: S.N. Nyeck
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham
Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021
Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-61224-9Published: 27 September 2021
eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-61225-6Published: 25 September 2021
Edition Number: 1
Number of Pages: IX, 132
Number of Illustrations: 3 b/w illustrations