Association for Africanist Anthropology
Group Flash Presentation Session
In Kenya, communal protected spaces are created in an attempt to mitigate social stigma and isolation that characterizes the lives of sexual minorities. Taking the form of psychosocial support groups, drop-in centers, resource centers, cultural spaces, hot-spots, queer-friendly bars, or safe houses, those participating can freely and comfortably express their identity and care for one another in order to maintain social networks, improve quality of life, avert security risks or simply create a sense of togetherness. Typically, health and rights-based interventions carried out within the ‘formal safe spaces’ are sponsored by non-profit organizations and coordinated through LGBT or sex workers groups. Here, political expressions and relationships are meant to create feelings of sameness, demonstrate unity and solidarity and act as advocacy fronts while offering an opportunity to mobilize resources. However, such ‘safe spaces’, go beyond providing physical safe spaces for biomedical interventions and dialogue to take place. Rather, these spaces offer sites for imagined community to emerge, for caring practices to be deployed as a form of resistance, and for the celebration of openness and inclusivity. This paper, which builds on long term (auto)-ethnographic research among sexual minorities in Kenya, will examine the complexities of how participation and debates in such spaces are shaped by diverse forms of marginalization and how care is imagined. I explore how sexual minorities negotiate issues of identity, self-disclosure, safety and visibility to create safe spaces.