Chiaroscuro: the uses of ‘homophobia’ and homophobic violence in armed conflicts and political transitions

Jose Fernando Serrano-Amaya

PhD thesis, conferred 2015

This research connects studies of gender and sexualities with studies of political conflicts, conflict resolution and democratisation, using two in-depth case studies (Colombia and South Africa). It explores the hypothesis that homophobia, or the set of hatreds bundled under that term, plays a fundamental role in the dispute for hegemony between antagonists during political transitions.

The study shows how homophobia, as a form of gender and sexual violence, has both a constructive and deconstructive character in political transitions. It contributes to the transformation of gender and sexual orders required by warfare and deployed by armed groups. It also reinforces the creation of consensus around the projects of change implemented by them. From the perspective of individuals and their organisations such hatreds are part of the embodied experience of violence caused by protracted conflicts and social inequalities. In their struggles for dignity, such violence becomes a reason to mobilise and to transform themselves into political activists.

This PhD research is important for theoretical, methodological and political reasons. Theoretically, it creates links between fields of study that have been developed separately from each other, reading concepts applied in one field with the lens of the other. Debates on ‘non-normative’ sexualities are useful in discussing normative concepts such as ‘conflict resolution’. Methodologically, the research analyses issues of documentation, memory and case construction that are of relevance in the field of human rights and gender in post-conflict reconstruction. In terms of political significance, this research is developed at a time in which discrimination against individuals and collectives, because of their sexual orientation and gender identities, is being increasingly recognised in the international arena. This research provides information that has not yet been collected and provides a systematic analysis useful for NGOs and state institutions.

Supervisor: Professor Raewyn Connell