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Creaturely lives and sexual exposure in African prison writing Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi 2 It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones – and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals . Nelson Mandela (1994: 201, my emphasis) ‘Homosexuals in Cameroon are treated like animals.’ Cameroon: Abuses in ‘Homosexuality’ Prosecutions. 1 Human Rights Watch Documentary, March 21, 2013 Introduction: sex in African prison narratives In the last two decades, African political prison writing has been a productive site for queer scholarship because it assembles representations of same-sex sexual practices at a nexus of expansive debates about democracy, resistance, and politi- cal rights. 2 Critics have used the genre’s representation of ‘homosexuals’ to illu- minate the inequalities attached to sexuality and gender within African political cultures and the enunciation of post-liberation African social worlds. 3 Reading the frequent juxtaposition of romanticised ‘heterosexual domestic space’ to ‘the gen- der-perverting space of the prison’, Keguro Macharia, for example, suggests that prison narratives encode the links ‘between political and sexual masculinities’ and circulate what is consider proper political masculinity (2009: 7). Certainly, histori- cally, various forms of masculinity – such as the heroic or big-man politician – have been circulated widely in African political scenes as affective matter facilitating popular political attachments, yet such circulated embodiments – often incar- nated as political patriarchs – are iconic representations resulting from complex manipulations of gender and sexuality. 4 Zackie Achmat disaggregates such pro- cedures when he points to the subjection of bodies and the social reconstruction of power, gender, and pleasure in prisons. Following his interpretation, all gender and sexual identities produced in prison systems stand in relation to one another in a chain of complicity, participation, and co-implication (1993: 93–96). Thus the injunction is to think through the functions of sexuality in securing distinctions amongst subjects caught within power relations. This chapter extends the current reading practices that African queer scholarship brings to the analysis of queer citations within narratives of political resistance 15037-0240-002.indd 41 4/2/2018 9:20:39 AM
42 Taiwo Adetunji Osinubi (Munro 2012). Rather than focus on citations of same-sex desire alone, this chap- ter examines the place of same-sex desire within constellations of lived expe- riences in prison narratives. In the earlier epigraphs, the references to animals point to complex relations to the extraordinary violence of incarceration. Nelson Mandela and the unnamed Cameroonian seek to render visible their reduction to subjects seemingly outside of human life and, consequently, outside of political recognition (see Wallerstein 1961). Specifically, they denounce their reduction to

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