Colonial Carnivalesque: Transgressing Normativities and Gender Performance in Mozambique and Angola

Presented by Caio Simoes de Araujo

Monday, 3 October, 2022 - 16:00

Gender as a concept has been increasingly engaged in Southern African history. Much of this scholarship has studied the making of gender regimes over time, the ways in which men and women are historically situated as ever-changing historical subjects, and shaped by medical, labour, and cultural systems, to name just a few. This paper dialogues with this scholarship, but asks what kind of gender history can we tell if we focus instead in events and moments of transgression and gender-bending, in acts that destabilize rather than reinforce dominant sexual cultures and normative gender regimes. To do so, I will look at the Carnaval festivities in Lourenço Marques, capital of Mozambique, in the late colonial period (ca. 1950-1975). As elsewhere, in Lourenço Marques the Carnival could be a moment of sexual experimentation and cross-gender performance. Looking at the Carnaval, I suggest, allows us to move away from normative gender regimes and disciplines of sexuality, to privilege instead the forms of disruption and liberation that are produced through the body in motion, dancing or in disguise, in what Ananya Kabir has called the “alegropolitics” of the dance floor. In addition, thinking with the Carnaval raises pertinent questions relating to temporality in history writing: as an event, a disruptive moment in time, it highlights the tension between continuity and discontinuity, and between transgression and normativity. The paper will be based in historical newspaper analysis, oral history interviews, and visual analysis of photographs.
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