The role of ruptures and revolutions in the production of categories of race, gender and sexuality

Date: 1 September 2017, 09:00–12:00

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 391



As a means to activate transnational dialogue, this panel focuses on the ways in which changes in various societies and political structures have lead to the emergence or re-emergence of categories of race, gender and sexuality as anchors of identity or identification in a world of uncertainty. By this we acknowlegde that categories can both be assumed by groups in description of identities, but can also be imposed on groups as a means of identification. This panel focuses on the way in which such categories have been utilised for securing dominant positions in times where conflict, struggle and the breakdown of (political) orders were significant. By engaging with material from the fields of history, musicology, cultural studies and the arts, these individual papers seek to highlight caesuras in time that allowed for, or even resulted in, the emergence of intersecting racial, sexual and gendered categories. As such, this panel offers an interdisciplinary approach to various types of media, including audio-visual sources, written documents, oral interviews and archival material. This combination of topics, sources and methodologies creates openings for nuanced, complex descriptions and understandings of the ways in which categories for identification, normative and non-normative identities, as well as minority and majority statuses, are negotiated. This panel proposes that the processes of negotiation behind the emergence of these categories are evident in divergent but related timeframes and contexts. By following such a perspective, this panel looks at ruptures at three different points in time, with case studies ranging from upheavals and change in the political landscape of the early 20th century to movements in the mid 20th century, while more recent developments in the 21st century are also considered. In addition, the panel comprises of case studies that connect divergent points of geospatial reference, from the South African, Senegalese and German nation states, to the transnational sphere of international negotiations. In the combination of historical and contemporary sources, this approach endorses efforts to overcome the predominant ‘pre-’ and ‘post-’ dialectic that often still pervades contemporary approaches to historical moments. In addition, the narratives of ‘centre’ and ‘periphery’ are also opened up for critical examination by placing particular emphasis on processes of negotiation and positioning that exceed (geo-)political demarcations. Despite the plurality that such an approach calls for, all the contributions remain centred on the emergence (and potential reemphasis) of categories of race, sexuality and gender, while the multiple intersections of such categories in different regional or national contexts enjoy particular emphasis. The panel starts from the assumption that revolutions, ruptures and political change, as well as their impact on individual lives, can only be fully understood when contextualised in terms of the global connections and entanglements that groups of actors produce to promote or prevent change. Accordingly, the categories emerging from these struggles are thus situated in their global dynamics.


Lena Dallywater (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography Leipzig)


Ernst van der Wal (Stellenbosch University)


Forrest Kilimnik (Leipzig University)

Ulf Engel (Leipzig University)


Ruth Ennis (Leipzig University)

Susann Baller (Institut historique allemand Paris-Dakar )

Lena Dallywater (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography Leipzig)

Lizabé Lambrechts (Stellenbosch University)

Ernst van der Wal (Stellenbosch University)

Nicola Camilleri (Free University Berlin)



Ruth Ennis: "White slave traffic": Capturing a vocabulary on gender, race and sexuality for the 1904 international agreement

In Paris on the 18th of May 1904, the first 'International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic' was signed by the representatives of 12 European governments, as well as a number of non-European States such as Brazil, India and China. This first attempt to regulate state responses to the transnational trafficking of women and children for prostitution was built upon and reworked in subsequent international conventions from 1910, 1921, 1949 and 2000. Each of these conventions produced and reproduced explicit categories pertaining to certain notions of gender, sexuality and race. In exploring transnational exchanges and correspondences from the 1880’s until the signing of the 1904 agreement, this paper examines the processes through which ideas on gender, race and sexuality were negotiated and framed, as well as how these ideas subsequently informed the first official inter-state agreed language on ‘White Slave Traffic’.

Susann Baller: Youth movements, protests and identities in the 1950s - 2000s in Senegal

Senegal has known a series of youth protests against the political establishment since the late 1950s, which have, at times, led to the whole change of regimes. At the same time, political leaders were keen to utilize Senegalese youth for their own aims. This paper considers the social and political contestation led by mainly young people in 1958 (“porteurs des pancartes” at the visit of Charles de Gaulle in Dakar claiming for independence), 1968 (student movement and its aftermath), the late 1980s (electoral manifestations and set setal movement), as well as around the presidential elections in 2000 (sopi) and 2014 (j’en a marre). The paper argues that in the contexts of these protests not only political leaders invented discourses on youth, but also young people invented themselves as youth. Moreover, both the fact of a whole series of youth manifestations, as well as each protest itself contributed to the production of new identities among young people, who often got labelled as “generation X” (such as set setal generation, boul faale generation). In addition, at each of these protest movements, gender roles were re-negotiated. Social and political protests thus not only aimed at bringing political change [and were part of a context of political uncertainties and the breakdown of (political) orders], but also contributed to the invention and reinvention of youth, gender and different generations in Senegal. The paper analyses the continuities of these gender and generational identities that were produced on a discursive level, but also how different modes of protest interacted with different ideas of gender and youth.

Lena Dallywater: The role of Black Arts for revolution and resistance in the USA and South Africa

Two social movements shaped the imaginations of black people at roughly the same time: The Black Arts movement in the USA, that is commonly described as cultural wing of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Black Consciousness movement in South Africa, which was a philosophical, cultural, and quasi-political movement that emerged among intellectuals at universities and theological colleges at the end of the 1960s. Both movements promoted “the necessity for black people to define the world in their own terms” (Larry Neal, one of the spokesmen of the BA movement) and the discovery and description of specific ‘black cultural values’, as means of the emancipation of blacks in settings of segregation and white denigration. But, whereas several authors and historical actors have highlighted similarities and ‘cross-fertilization’ of black ideologies (Fredrickson 1998), and the ‘intense yet ambiguous ties’ of the countries that resulted in ‘transcultural echoes’ (Nixon 1989), if not even ‘psychological affinities’ (Alan Pifer, president of the Carnegie Cooperation 1981), this paper wants to point to the differences and frictions in firstly the groups of actors, secondly their approach towards the written and visual arts and their role in the struggle, and finally the status and meaning of ‘nation’ and ‘revolution’ for social change. In the paper I argue that very different sets of racialised categories and conceptualizations of belonging emerged, though they were labeled similarly at first sight.

Lizabé Lambrechts: Singing to the ‘Free Peoples’: Music and resistance in Apartheid South Africa

The Hidden Years Music Archive (HYMA), is arguably one of South Africa’s biggest popular music archives, yet it remains shrouded in obscurity due to a lack of infrastructural support. Collected by David Marks from 1958-2005, the archive encapsulates alternative popular and folk music during the turbulence of apartheid to the early years of democracy. However, it does not concern itself with the orthodox struggle- and anti-apartheid narrative but instead represents everyday musicians who worked together across racial, class and genre divides. Of particular interest to this paper is the Free Peoples Festivals, an inter-racial festival hosted by David Marks and the South African Folk Music Association in conjunction with various student unions from 1970 – 1986. Although the festival was barred several times by the government, audiences kept growing and musicians came to include artists from Malawi, Lesotho and Zimbabwe. The paper will use oral history interviews and archival materials to explore this festival and the role played by the group of musicians to imagine and realise a South African society different from the one propagated and enforced by the ruling apartheid government.

Ernst van der Wal: Masculinity at War: The South African 'Border War' and the Representation of Homosexualities

By drawing on the South African and German contexts, this paper offers a transnational perspective on the phenomenon of lbgti (that is, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender and intersex) refugees who seek asylum on the basis of their sexual and/or gender identities in the two respective countries. While this phenomenon has heightened dramatically in recent years, it is underwritten by the development of liberal democratic discourses that identify certain gender identities and sexual orientations as precarious, and hence in need of protection. This paper considers the visual and textual tools that are used, so to speak, to represent lbgti refugees within Germany and South Africa, and considers how such modes of representation resonate with larger socio-political and (trans)nationalist discourses on the subject of belonging and citizenship.

Nicola Camilleri: Race and space: Citizenship policy and local agencies in Italian Eritrea and German East Africa (1882 - 1919)

After the conquest of those East African territories that became the colonies Eritrea and German East Africa, the late comers of European colonialism, Germany and Italy, started to establish colonial rule on the spot. This happened through a system of racial segregation that made the natives subjects instead of citizens and relegated them to a subaltern position in the social, political and economic life of the colonies. Nevertheless, the geo-political positions of the colonies and local circumstances played a big role in citizenship policy, opened spaces of negotiation and influenced the way the natives conceived of themselves in the colonial situation.

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