''You have to know how to play, otherwise they will catch you'' : young women and the navigation of same-sex intimacies in contemporary urban Senegal

Title''You have to know how to play, otherwise they will catch you'' : young women and the navigation of same-sex intimacies in contemporary urban Senegal
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsL.W. Oudenhuijsen
Date Published2018
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL)
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
Keywordsfootball, homosexuality, Senegal, women

This thesis explores how same-sex intimacies are navigated by young women in contemporary urban Senegal. Central to this research are various social spaces where sociality and sexuality are co-constructed among women. The analysis is based on six months of ethnographic fieldwork in urban Senegal, predominantly Dakar, with a focus on participant observation to grasp the tacit knowledge of same-sex intimacies. In particular, this thesis examines the football field, local queer organisations and a variety of other homosocial environments such as the home and queer parties. Through a careful adherence to the Senegalese value of sutura (discretion, modesty), by making use of play, and by displaying respectability, homosocial spaces ranging from the relatively private home to the fairly public football field allow for the occurrence of same-sex intimacies. This thesis makes use of Henrik Vigh’s (2006; 2009) conceptualisation of social navigation to understand how enacting same-sex desires is a twofold process of balancing personal desires and social expectations. The social environment is an ambiguous terrain in which expectations of proper womanhood, marriage, and parenthood need to be calibrated even as such expectations may change over time due to processes of globalisation, economic recession, or governmental changes, as well as with age, as new expectations and responsibilities arise as people grow from youth into (social) adults. This thesis will demonstrate how women navigate their same-sex intimacies in different ways in various social spaces, drawing on Henri Lefebvre’s (1991 [1974]) conceptual triad of social space. In these social spaces, gender is enacted relationally, and shifting notions of masculinity (jump) and femininity (sexy) attest to the ambiguity and fluidity of gender constructs. Together, these social spaces and the same-sex intimacies that they enable form a loosely connected community of practice (O’Mara 2013) that combines a specific lexicon (jump and sexy) with tacit understanding of same-sex intimacies. By examining how young women navigate existing spaces and create alternative spaces in trying to secure decent lives for themselves, this thesis shows how these different spaces form central loci of urban social reproduction. In these spaces, symbolic manifestations of gendered bodies coalesce into a network of queer women. Examining corporeal and erotic interactions between women helps theorise how these performative aspects of life contribute to the intersubjective meaning-making of sexuality and a sense of being at home in the world.


Master thesis.

IR handle/ Full text URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1887/64809
Citation Key10208