Becoming Zega: queer subjectivities in public space in Ethiopia

Serawit B. Debele

- completed -

“Zega” is an Amharic word which, in its current usage, means “a citizen”. In the context of the queer community, it is a codeword used to denote same-sex-attracted people. This research mainly focuses on Zega Addis Ababans to explore various forms and structures of power, practices, and experiences that shape queer subjectivities. By raising two overlapping sets of questions - one linked to history and the other to current unfoldings - about sexuality (same sex desire or otherwise), the project investigates queer subjectivities and what historical, political, and social processes and practices shape their formations. To this end, the project asks: What do historical accounts tell us about the public perception and reception of sexual desires and intimacies in the Ethiopian context? How do these historical accounts assist us to understand the contemporary processes of what look like subtle, and yet vibrant, emergence of queer subjects? What socio-cultural, political, religious, and economic conditions shape desire and intimacy? How do queer subjects navigate through existing public places and/or create new ones in a seemingly uneven terrain, such as Ethiopia? The research is based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and historical research, including archival materials and oral narratives. 

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