What’s private about private parts? Transgender lives, online and off the African continent

queer studies

The Queer Studies Network is delighted to welcome back to Oxford Dr B Camminga (they/them), Postdoctoral Fellow at the African Centre for Migration & Society, Wits University, South Africa.

Drawing on the digital diasporic elements of the African transgender archive, Dr Camminga’s paper will grapple with the ethical questions of citation and the archive in the digital age. In 2011, Miss Sahhara, a transgender refugee from Nigeria, was crowned Miss International Queen First Princess in the world’s most prestigious beauty pageant for transgender women. The then cultural minister of Nigeria, contacted for comment on her triumph, responded that if she was transgender, she could not be Nigerian. If she was Nigerian, she could not be transgender. In response, Miss Sahhara engaged in an active “war with Nigeria through the internet” – using digital means to project an identity that is both trans and African, back at the African continent. This ‘war’ has not gone unnoticed by the Nigerian tabloid press who, in turn, often publish salacious online articles about Miss Sahhara’s life carrying her 'deadname'. These tabloids can do so without threat because Miss Sahhara is both a refugee and transgender. I understand this archive as being of particular importance to how we might come to understand trans existence and global flows of identity for people from the African continent. Yet, to even cite these articles, let alone reflect on their content, is to become complicit in their harm.

More broadly, Dr Camminga’s work considers the interrelationship between the conceptual journeying of the term ‘transgender’ from the Global North and the physical embodied journeying of African transgender asylum seekers globally. Their first monograph Transgender Refugees & the Imagined South Africa was published in 2019 (Palgrave). The book received honorable mention in the Ruth Benedict Prize for Queer Anthropology from the American Anthropology Association in the same year.  They are the co-convener of the African LGBTQI+ Migration Research Network (ALMN). The network aims to advance scholarship on all facets of LGBTQI+ migration bringing together scholars, researchers, practitioners, activists and service providers to spark critical conversations, promote knowledge exchange, support evidence-based policy responses, and initiate effective and ethical collaborations.

Lunch (including vegan and gluten-free options) will be served from 1pm, and the presentation will be followed by a Q&A.

All are most welcome. The venue is fully accessible. If you have any questions, please contact ruth.ramsden-karelse@merton.ox.ac.uk