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Doing Identities: Travelling Concepts of Gender and Sexuality

English title Doing Identities: Travelling Concepts of Gender and Sexuality
Applicant Wastl-Walter Doris
Number 114482
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Geographisches Institut Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Social geography and ecology
Start/End 01.10.2006 - 30.09.2009
Approved amount 315'429.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Social geography and ecology

Keywords (9)

subjectivity; identity politics; gender; sexuality; intersectionality; globalization; migration; postcolonialism; representation

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Growing migrant communities, transnational flows of capital and commodities, and the intensified circulation of cultural meanings and concepts are creating new contexts for the negotiations of identity.Through an exploration of the subject positions of queer migrant women in Switzerland and of women engaging in intimate female friendships in Ghana, this project examines how national, ethnic, sexual and gendered identities intersect and constitute each other. The research thus focuses on women whose lived realities subvert such discursive boundaries as the opposition of heterosexual/homosexual, feminine/masculine, private/public, rural/urban, Western/non-Western. By focusing on subjective conceptions of self and agency, the study critically examines constructions of identity coined by human rights movements in the United States in the mid 20th century.The project focuses on two related fields:A first area of the research centers around spatial concepts and practices of queer migrant women in Switzerland originating from countries in which homosexuality is discriminated by law or cultural norms. Engaging with this intersectional subject position, the study explores how the women's everyday "doing identity" (re)produces and subverts social inscriptions in space and place. Particular attention is paid to questions of belonging, to processes of in- and exclusion and to the relationship between ethnic/national and sexual identity.Second, the specific meanings of non-standardised forms of female same-sex intimacies in Southern Ghana will be examined. Through an exploration of the homosocial spaces and of the life histories of urban women of three age groups, the study zooms in on female bonds and linkages beyond their function as economic coping strategies. Taking into account the intersections of metropolitain colonial and Ghanaian postcolonial forms of sexuality and homophobia, it aims at broadening the spectrum of relationships women engage in and at exploring interruptions of normative gender arrangements.Theoretically the project draws from concepts from both the postcolonial and the queer critique (that radically destabilise essentialising notions of identity), while simultaneously demonstrating the exclusions these perspectives (re)produce. While postcolonial enquiries tend to neglect same-sex desire and homophobia, queer studies often disregard cross-cultural and transnational formations of same-sex intimacy outside the West. On a methodological level, the study on the one hand adopts social scientific methodologies - biographical and expert interviews and visual material produced by the research participants - to approach human agency and modes of everyday performances. On the other hand, cultural theory is employed to interpret cultural texts (such as web pages, NGO publications or religious pamphlets) in order to analyse the power geometries that operate in the social construction of gendered, sexualised, ethnic and national identities.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

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