Association for Africanist Anthropology
Group Flash Presentation Session
In this paper I examine bibi headed homes as sites for care and the emergence kin-like relations across generations in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Bibi, or ‘grandmother,’ is Kiswahili for grandmother, an honorific title given to middle-aged and older gay men who offer shelter, advice and other forms of care for younger gay men whose relationships with their biological families have fallen apart as a consequence of their sexuality becoming known. Many young gay men leave their biological families either to hide or escape the shame that results from their families learning that they engage in sex with other men. Finding the bibi-headed homes is rarely straight-forward, especially for those who come from outside the city. It requires one to personally know or have a friend who knows a bibi to get an opportunity to live in these homes. Bibi-headed homes are made up of individuals who do not share blood ties and offer as space where household members share a sense of family while also learning how to successfully navigate a gay life in a city that is becoming increasingly hostile to same sex relationships and public performances of gender non-conformity. While living at bibi’s the younger gay men are expected to provide care through daily home upkeep or financial contribution to cover some household expenses for those working. This paper builds on one-year of ethnographic research conducted among gay men aged 18 years and above in Dar es Salaam between January and December 2017.