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Dr Thomas Hendriks: '"Making Men Fall": Queer Power beyond Anti-Normativity'

Thursday 13 February 2020, 16:00
Baines Wing SR (2.13)

LUCAS, together with the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, is delighted to invite you to attend our research seminar, delivered by Dr Thomas Hendriks, Evans-Pritchard Fellow in African Anthropology, St Anne's College, University of Oxford. All are welcome to attend.


In modern social thinking and critical theory, norms are generally thought in opposition to a space of freedom that is more or less curtailed by and through processes of normalization. From this perspective, “transgression” implicitly or explicitly becomes an act of resistance against the norm. This is particularly clear in dominant strands of Western Queer Theory, where a political and analytical investment in anti-normativity has – paradoxically – become a field-defining norm. Often, however, such strong anti-normativity becomes a liability when trying to do justice to actually existing queer dynamics and potentials in past and present African realities. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork amongst sexually dissident young men who call themselves “fioto” in urban DR Congo, this paper troubles the always-already oppositional relationship between queerness and normativity. Not by arguing that queer is normal too. Or by showing that queer lives produce their own norms alongside heteronormativity. But rather by arguing that norms are themselves already queer. It specifically thinks with two groups of fioto friends in Kisangani to show how and why norms generated their own queerness – as something that was already there as an inherent dimension of their own multiplicity.


Dr Hendriks joined the African Studies Centre in 2016-2017, where he is involved in the teaching of the MSc in African Studies. He is also appointed to the Institute of Social Anthropology where he teaches and supervises graduate students. He was trained as an anthropologist at the KU Leuven University (Belgium) and his research emerges from long-term intensive fieldwork in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His ethnographic interests range from gender, sexuality and desire to labour, race and memory in both urban and rural settings. His theoretical work occurs at the crossroads of African anthropology, gender studies and queer theory.