#51 George Paul Meiu – Queer objects & intimate citizenship in Kenya

Hør afsnittet

Welcome to Regnfang’s co-publication of the Anthropology on Air podcast. A podcast created and published in collaboration with the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Bergen. Each episode features interviews with social sciences researchers on topics related to the ways in which our human mind and life is entangled with the communities of ideas and beings with whom we live.

This episode’s guest, George Paul Meiu, is professor of anthropology and chair of the institute of social anthropology at the University of Basel and associate in the departments of anthropology and African and African American studies at Harvard University.

George’s research and teaching focus on sexuality, gender, and kinship; ethnicity, belonging and citizenship; mobility, memory, and materiality; and the political economy of East Africa and Eastern Europe. He is the author of the prize-winning book Ethno-erotic Economies: Sexuality, Money, and Belonging in Kenya (University of Chicago Press, 2017), and his new book, currently in press, is titled Queer Objects to the Rescue: Intimacy and Citizenship in Kenya (University of Chicago Press, 2023). In addition, George is our companion in the attempt of getting anthropology on air, he is the host and producer of the combined video-podcast platform, Ethnographic Imagination Basel, which we really recommend checking out!

In this podcast, we talk with George about ways to understand the contemporary homophobic violence and sentiment in Kenya. Instead of imposing perspectives from queer liberalism, George suggests situating the phenomenon in its own social, material, and historical context in order to grasp its local grammar and conditions of reproduction. George then offers an analytical strategy to do this through a focus on what he calls ‘queer objects’. We talk about how objects such as plastic and diapers can be used to grasp the moral panic over homosexuality in Kenya and how this relates to notions of intimate citizenship. Finally, George describes how the queer potentiality of objects has been used in artivism and activism and how we might use it for thinking critically, imagining, and creating new worlds.

The podcast was recorded in early June 2023 when George was in Bergen to give a presentation at the Bergen Social Anthropology Seminar (BSAS).

–       If you want to learn more about George’s work, we recommend listening to this New Books Network podcast episode, where he talks about his prize-winning book Ethno-erotic Economies: Sexuality, Money, and Belonging in Kenya

Host and production: Sidsel Marie

Music: Victor Lange