Public exposure and social control: gender "in public" in West Africa
(ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon)
Paper short abstract:
This paper will discuss examples of how Senegalese society has dealt with sexuality in the public sphere, by considering it as a space of normativization. As citizens intimate lives make their way to the public sphere, especially women and non-normative sexualities are under scrutiny.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on the work I have been developing for the last few years, mainly focusing on gender issues in West Africa. It intends to discuss the public sphere in Senegal (and other neighbouring countries), as a space of normativization of sexuality. The "irruption" of sexuality in the public space hasn't escaped academic attention in the past (Mamadou Diouf, Tshikala Biaya), but these last few years have seen developments that have introduced new elements, mainly due to the sprouting of new technologies and possibilities of "enregistrement", which has signified the appearance in the public sphere of the intimate lives of people living in these countries. As 'citizens' intimate lives make their way into the public sphere, public scrutiny also tends to increase and become appearingly random. Appeals to 'moral identities' and 'gender roles' are frequent and fiercely discussed, on a wide range of formats, following the logic of 'scandals': radio talk shows, television debates, closed groups in communication media, social media. This paper will discuss some examples of how Senegalese society has dealt with sexuality in the public sphere, ranging from the instrumentalization of homophobia, with the discussion of its 'illegitimacy' or 'un-africanness' being used as a politcal tool; to the the public exposure of people's sexuality in websites like Seneporno, an extreme example of how 'public shaming' and 'rumor' are often used as instruments of social control and policig of sexuality, especially of women and non-normative sexualities.
Sexual and reproductive rights: conflicting narratives and the future of gender in Africa