technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Speculative fictions, same-sex families, and Black queer life-shaping in South Africa


kinship and families



This paper is a reflection on ethnographic research I conducted on queer kinship and relationalities in South Africa between 2015 and 2016. I consider the place where anthropological studies of same-sex lives and ties meet the speculations of feminist science fiction to elaborate on a concept of queer life-shaping. Queer life-shaping articulates how my interlocutors created and negotiated natal and chosen kin constellations out of desire, love, and responsibility, and as an extension of who they are. As such, life-shaping draws on the radical yet everyday labor that is Black queer world-making, narrowing in on shifting webs of family that are guided by the loving and intentional work of lesbian parents, motherly lovers, young star-crossed couples, and dutiful descendants of ancestors that I witnessed and wrote about as part of my broader research on knowledge about female-bodied same-sexualities in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The paper compares and contrasts ethnographic excerpts of queer life-shaping with the imaginative queer reproduction techniques described in the feminist sci-fi novels that followed me through fieldwork. I argue that interlocutors’ narratives of queer life-shaping and the reproductive possibilities found in these speculative fictions allow for a rethinking of the line between anthropology and art, and of globalized struggles for same-sex rights in the contemporary.


Transcript English (automatic)

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