n Journal for Islamic Studies - States of being : public selves and national privacies in queer Muslim autobiographies in South Africa




In this essay, I consider apartheid's racialised exclusions as well as the gendered and sexualised silences in certain forms of national belonging articulated by the anti-apartheid struggle and the post-apartheid nation. In particular, I theorise the role of autobiography about sexuality and religion in countering the regulation of political belonging in contemporary South Africa. I argue that life narratives can engage in a complex and dissident relationship to public discourses on national belonging. Black South Africans have produced an impressive record of autobiographical writing since the 19th century, generating an intricate local history of private life. In this trajectory, I explore what Muslim self-writing can contribute to South African conceptions of the private by analysing the collection of autobiographical essays published in . I argue that the forms of self-making in these narratives illustrate some of the social uses to which a confluence of religion, sexuality and national identity is being put in contemporary South Africa. I suggest that the intersection of religion and sexuality forms a complex engagement with questions of cultural authenticity and national belonging, potentially unsettling conventional exclusions and generating new forms of identity and affiliation.


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