Queering Ubuntu : the self and the other in South African queer autobiography.
The research presented in this dissertation examines South African queer autobiography. The primary texts that I have chosen to analyse are four recent collections of autobiographical accounts by queer-identifying individuals, which I believe to represent a current trend in queer life writing in the South African context. These four texts are Hijab: Unveiling Queer Muslim Lives (Hendricks 2009), which is a collection of short pieces of writing by queer Muslims; Yes I Am! Writing by South African Gay Men (Malan & Johaardien 2010), a collection of writing by gay men; Reclaiming the L-Word: Sappho’s Daughters Out in Africa (Diesel 2011), a collection of lesbian writing; and Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa (Morgan, Marais & Wellbeloved 2011 ), a collection of writing by transgender individuals. I have isolated a number of chosen narratives from each collection and engaged in a critical exploration of the construction of autobiographical selfhood through the theoretical lens of collective identity and the African humanist concept of ubuntu. I begin by individually examining the major concepts relating to queer theory, ubuntu, collective identity and autobiography, and then charting the manner in which they intersect in the primary texts. I illustrate the relational nature of autobiographical self-construction by examining how it is constructed in various social locations and the interactions in these locations, including: community spaces, family spaces and spiritual/religious spaces. I foreground how the community is represented as shaping the family structure, and how each of these two institutions contributes to the manner in which the autobiographical subject views and presents the self textually. In terms of ubuntu and spirituality/religion I explore the Ubuntu Theology of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. I consider how it offers new modes and progressive ways of positioning the queer autobiographical self in terms of spirituality/religion, especially when one considers the often discriminatory manner in which monotheistic religion views the position of queer-identifying individuals. I conduct my analysis in this dissertation in a manner that not only seeks to engage with the literariness of each of the primary texts, but also highlights the socio-political value inherent in the texts, as well as how they function as vital tools in the struggle for equality that the queer minority is currently engaged in.