Sacred Queer Stories: The Ugandan LGBT Refugees Life Story Project
- Start date: 1 April 2019
- End date: 30 September 2021
- Funder: British Academy
- Primary investigator: Prof. Adriaan van Klinken
- Co-investigators: Prof. Johanna Stiebert
Partners and collaborators
The Nature Network (community-based organisation in Nairobi, Kenya)
"Sacred Queer Stories is a research project exploring the intersections of bible stories and the life stories of Ugandan LGBTI refugees. More specifically, it examines the potential of reclaiming the Bible and using it to signify the queer lives of LGBTI refugees in East Africa.
As Sebyala Brian, the local research coordinator, puts it: “In this project we creatively use stories from the Bible to tell our own life experiences as LGBTI refugees. The Bible is often used against us, but in this project we reclaim it as a book that affirms and empowers us.”
The rationale for the project is two-fold. First, autobiographical storytelling is an important and empowering method for members of marginalised communities to overcome their silencing in society and claim a space to make themselves heard. It also builds on long-standing traditions of storytelling in African cultures. Second, the Bible is an authoritative religious text and a popular cultural archive in contemporary Africa. As much as the Bible serves to reinforce existing power structures and social inequalities, it can also be used for purposes of community empowerment and social transformation."
For this project, we worked with a local community-based organisation of LGBTI refugees based in Nairobi, Kenya. Through project activities, the participating refugees discovered the power of their life stories, and the potential of life story telling as an activist method. They developed creative ways of connecting their life experiences to biblical stories, thus reclaiming the Bible as a sacred text empowering them. This resulted in two drama films produced as part of the project. The films were screened at the Changing the Story international film festival, one of them winning the platinum audience award.
Publications and outputs
The following outputs are forthcoming:
1) Book: Adriaan van Klinken & Johanna Stiebert, with Sebyala Brian and Fredrick Hudson, Sacred Queer Stories: Inter-reading Ugandan LGBT Refugee Lives and the Bible (James Currey publishers);
2) Book chapter: Adriaan van Klinken & Johanna Stiebert, "Challenging Contexts from the Lions’ Den: Reading Daniel with Ugandan LGBT Refugees in Nairobi";
3) Journal article: Adriaan van Klinken and Tom Muyunga-Mukasa, "'Accused of a Sodomy Act': Bible, Queer Poetry and African Narrative Hermeneutics" (Journal of Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies),
4) Adriaan van Klinken, "‘We Shall Not Be Eaten by Any Lions": Healing Ugandan Queer Trauma through Creative Contextual Bible Study