The Rock Ethics Institute

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Job Talk - Queer Intimacies: Visualizing Black Lesbian Desire in Contemporary South Africa
by Rob Peeler published Feb 03, 2017 last modified Mar 30, 2017 11:29 AM
This talk examines visual art produced by lesbian human rights activists in South Africa that is emerging to contest racialized and gendered constructions of black lesbian vulnerability within global humanitarian advocacy. Through an analysis of the work of South African visual activist, Zanele Muholi, the talk considers how black queer theories of vulnerability and precarity challenge second-wave feminist understandings of women’s human rights grounded in freedom from gender violence and the pursuit of sexual autonomy. By reframing and recontextualizing black queer vulnerability in terms of the erotic—or the body’s proximity to both pleasure and pain—Muholi’s work opens up a space for visualizing black lesbian desire in contemporary South Africa. In doing so, Muholi’s mobilization of erotic vulnerability as the basis for lesbian human rights activism constitutes an ethical provocation to rethink the kinds of sexual rights claims that are imagined as possible.
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