Queering the Agikuyu

What happened in the thingira?

To ask this question is to inject a note of perverse curiosity regarding this ostensibly homosocial space, this space in which a young man trained himself in the erotics of becoming a mature man. It is to ask what young warriors do when they are alone with their spears and swords. It is to note the beauty of the firm, high young buttocks of young men as they pose in profile in colonial pictures.

Circumstances force me to say what I do with ethnicity or tribe, whichever term one prefers.

I Queer it. Always.

I attend to the perverse, the peculiar, the gender-breaking, identity fragmenting, subject-deforming, pleasure-laden, pain-driven, inconsistent, incoherent, embarrassing, and shameful moments of ethnicity and I privilege them as sites of knowledge production and community re-construction and de-structuration.

When I discuss ethnicity or tribe I read for the queer and as a queer. Always.

Should I write of love, I write of queer love, strange love, perverse love. Not the embrace of the mythical bosom of identity but the admission that the boy desires his mother, his father, his brother, his grandfather. That his fantasies would frighten them, intrigue them, perhaps seduce them, always unsettle them.

I take every single use of my writing as a hearty endorsement of queer politics, queer rights, and queer culture, ranging from s/m and all forms of kink to public sex, be it in parks or bathrooms.

I take every single use of my writing, acknowledged or unacknowledged, as a critique of heteronormative institutions and ideas, including the nation, the state, and the family.

I take every single use of my writing, acknowledged or unacknowledged, as an admission that queer critiques are not only right and valid, but that queer practices of perversity deserve to be disseminated and shared.

I take every single use of my writing, acknowledged or unacknowledged, as a shared queer project, dedicated to dismantling heterosexist and heteronormative forms of being and belonging.

And I strongly caution those who use my writing without my permission or acknowledgment, that they enter into what Fanon termed “homosexual territory” at their own risk.

It’s queer here.

11 thoughts on “Queering the Agikuyu

  1. This post interests me.
    Why, I have asked myself a few times, does queer theory not speak to meas an out homo with years of political experience, and as an out hiv+ gay sociologist?

    I always find it too thin, it seems to lack substance, to make vast claims it can’t back up. It always seems full of empty posturing, but no politics, no engagement with life on the ground.

    Perhaps this reflects our different social situations – perhaps for you it is a vital and relevent theoretical & practical tool – here in NZ queer has simply become an easier way of saying “GLBTTFI” (gay, lesbian, bi, takatapui, transsexual, fa’faffine, intersexed) – a grouping I am suspicioous of anyhow. What do gay men have in common with the intersexed? Nothing that I can see except for the labels others place on us as sexually ‘deviant’ and that label has disappeared pretty well here in terms of gay men and lesbians.

    I ask the question, have my doubts, but as yet have no firm answers.

  2. Hi Michael,

    thanks for visiting. There are as many varieties of queer theory as there are queers, so your question is somewhat unanswerable. I’m not copping out.

    One understanding of queer studies with which I am very much in favor is that its task is to unsettle–in this sense, as Lee Edelman once put it, it’s not about coming home or feeling at home. In fact, much of it goes against what coming out might symbolize–finding a community of like-minded people and being comfortable.

    You might see where this description is pedagogically useful–un-training students to be complacent about their identities–and also politically and socially distasteful for many people. (Of course, similar struggles mark the relationship between transgendered, intersexed, and gay and lesbian communities, not to mention the poor bisexuals, who are so often accused of being confused.)

    Many people use the term queer not as a marker of identity, but as a verb, as I do here: to queer means to approach history and society from a slanted angle, askew, with the intent of making the object under scrutiny itself askew.

    I think the question of what “gay men” have in common with the intersexed is fascinating, for it replicates, albeit unwittingly, the question that Dan Savage once asked about what he had in common with a black lesbian in Zimbabwe. Solidarities and commonalities don’t simply exist, as you know as a Sociologist; they are historically contingent and come into being for specific reasons. The political question, then, would be what common goals might gay men find with intersexed populations in regard to, say, state intervention and social resources and questions of social justice more broadly.

    Much more to say. If you prefer to continue the conversation over email, there’s a link somewhere on this site.



  3. What is ushoga?
    Ushoga is………………………………….R u one? no am not yes i am. blablabalabalabalabla. the ism says that ushoga is brbrbghbrhrhhrI. have read and schooled. In the end what is ushoga? it is………………………

  4. Maybe there is an identity maturization process; the process employed here reminds me of the black identity process of the late eighties and early nineties in hip-hop. Back then when PE, Parris, Brand Nubian, X-Clan were hip and Afro-American studies and Molefi Asante was all the rage, there was the need to find blackness in everything. Now almost 20 years latter no one seems to care and it appears that the identity process has moved on to where there is no need for validation in the historical timeline.

    Maybe the notion of history as being His-story has taken root and folks are more concerned about their identity history as opposed to its place in the general historical space.

  5. I find the comment interesting because much queer theory has been devoted precisely to the problem of development in framing human subjectivity and political action, a problem that has a very troubling political trajectory. One problem of employing such a framework is that, to my mind, it traffics much too closely with theories that held women, blacks, primitives, and other colonial-cum-sexual populations were insufficiently developed to run their own affairs. Its repetition in current Kenyan discourse needs to be remarked on, of course.

    I lean toward what has been termed queer negativity, which is not devoted to providing development or maturity, which, in some ways, refuses to play the development game, or plays it wrongly, indifferent to its demands, insofar as indifference can be maintained.

    I think its crucial to note that the demand politics be played in a certain register–in a mature, adult, rational way–is always a normative demand that, from the start, restricts access to the political as so defined. Queer studies critiques what might be considered the foundational acts of normalization that demarcate the domain of the political. But this is theory speak. And I want to be understood.

  6. Just know after all is said and done, queer behaviour will always be abhored by the general Agikuyu community.

  7. This, of course, is the major difference between us: I do not believe in the immutability of social and political structures.

  8. I read implications homosexual behavior in the ancient Kikuyu abodes which lead me to my analysis. I think we are in agreement that we are at the stage of redefining the very rules of validation, I think… I am out of my element here. It’s just that you article reminds me of my journey from Ice Cubes death Certificate to Little Wayne’s lick me like a lollipop where there is not even the attempt to justify or rationalize black identity.

  9. This is the first time ever that Ice Cube and Little Wayne (Lil Wayne?) have appeared on this blog! I feel very out of fashion–as, of course, I am.

    Of course, part of my strategy is to unsettle through innuendo, in part because the very absence of archives that justifies “tradition” can be used in other ways. This is why some critiques of my lack of rigorous methodology don’t bother me. Appeals to tradition rely on consensus, not empirical fact. I simply assert my idiosyncratic need to disagree.

    As for justifying or rationalizing black identity. I wouldn’t know where to begin and, quite honestly, I tend to think most attempts to do so become dangerous (an English professor has written on black fascism, borrowing, I think, from Paul Gilroy, and I find his idea compelling).

    I am much more interested in disturbing what we think we know, claim to know, insist we know about blackness, as it spreads across time and space. I should also note that my own academic areas of focus tend to be the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, 1885-1960, so hip-hop and rap references leave me scratching my head.

  10. Keguro, I love love love what you said about finding commonality between gay men and transgendered people in the struggle to navigate state control of sexuality. Your pointing to the political is right on!!

  11. Ice Cube’s Death Certificate to Little Wayne’s “Lollipop” pretty much mirrors the move from Stonewall to Queer As Folk. I miss the Angry Gay Man.

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