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Underlayers of Citizenship: Queer Objects, Intimate Exposures, and the Rescue Rush in Kenya

By George Paul Meiu

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Cite As:
Meiu, George. 2020. “Underlayers of Citizenship: Queer Objects, Intimate Exposures, and the Rescue Rush in Kenya”. Cultural Anthropology 35 (4):575–601. https://doi.org/10.14506/ca35.4.04.

Abstract

In Kenya in recent years, diapers have played a central role in anti-homosexual discourses, suggesting that anal sex results in chronic bodily incontinence. But rumors about adults in diapers do not pertain only to homosexuality. They also describe bodily ruptures resulting from sex work, illicit moneymaking practices, and “immorality,” more generally. This article explores how the resonances between different deployments of diapers help constitute the homosexual body as a target of outrage, violence, and exclusion. I argue that rumors about adults in diapers identify and expose national threats in the hidden layers of intimate life to produce good citizenship. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s work, I approach diapers as “queer objects,” because they offer an alternative entry point into discussions of intimate citizenship: they bracket the reified category of the homosexual and demonstrate how sentiments associated with homophobia emerge in a wider set of struggles with bodies, work, respectability, and progress.

Muhtasari

Katika mazumgumzo juu ya kuzuiia gayism (ushoga) nchini Kenya, imekuwa kawaida kusema kwamba ngono ya nyuma inasabibisha watu wazima wavae ‘pampers’ (nepi). Lakini uvumi huu hauhusu gayism peke yake tu. Uvumi juu ya nepi hurejelea pia nyufa za mwili zinazosabibishwa na ukahaba, mazoea ya kutafuta pesa haramu, na aina zingine za "uasherati." Makala hii inatafiti maana tofauti ya nepi katika mazumgumzo ya kila siku kwa ajiji ya kuelewa vile maana hayo yanaathiri maoni kuhusu gayism. Ninaonyesha vile uvumi juu ya watu wazima wanaovaa nepi wanafunua mahatari katika “tabaka zinazofichwa” za maisha ya kila siku nchini. Nepi ndiyo vitu vinavyotusaidia kuelewa uhusiano kati ya uraia na ujinsia. Kwa sababu hayo, ninafuata maandishi ya Sara Ahmed kusema kwamba nepi kuwa “vitu queer:” yaani, vitu vinavyoonyesha kwamba mapambano na afya ya miili, kazi, heshima, na maendeleo yanaweza kuunda chuki ya ushoga.

Keywords

sexuality; homophobia; objects; intimacy; citizenship; Kenya; mauhusiano ya kijamii; chuki cha ushoga; vitu; jinsia; uraia