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“Construction sites”: exploring queer identity and sexuality at the intersections of religion and culture in Zambia.

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The purpose of this study was to examine how Queer Christians construct their identities and sexualities within the social contexts of religion and culture. Framed within a qualitative and critical research paradigm, this study sought to interrogate the agency of gay Christians‘ formulation of their identities and sexualities and the role of religion and culture in the construction process. Data was produced from primary sources which utilized focus group discussions, individual interviews and observation of Queer Christians, focusing primarily on gay Christians, in urban Lusaka, Zambia. Findings show that religion and culture, acting independently or together, do inform how the study participants ―self-construct‖ their identities and sexualities. The participants constructed their identities and sexualities amidst ambiguities of regarding the Bible as infallible whilst holding biblical hermeneutics as fallible; belonging and not belonging within Zambian churches, and upholding personal piety over belonging to the institutional Church. To show the influence of global culture in the construction of gay identities and sexualities, participants identified with Christianity‘s motif of creation of humanity in God‘s image and not African Traditional Religions‘ aligning gay identities with the inhabitation of ancestral spirits. In the construction process, silence and discretion are evident, while ambiguities of constructing identities in masculine and feminine rites of passage were highlighted. In relation to gender and sexual roles, the study showed elements of homopatriarchy exhibited through physical violence among some sexual partners, as well as ambiguities of identifying as male, female and woman. This study makes four major arguments, first, that participants are agents in their ―selfconstruction‖ of identities and sexualities. Second, the gender binary model is restrictive in understanding gay identities and sexualities. Third, the ―coming-out‖ model is not suitable for study participants due to personal choice, security reasons and the veiled nature of sexuality discourses. Fourth, the concept of masculinities does not fully capture varieties of identities and sexualities among gay Christians in Zambia.


Doctor of Philosophy in Religion. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2016.