Namibia's Rainbow Project

Namibia's Rainbow Project

Gay Rights in an African Nation
Robert Lorway
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/28/2014
Format: Paperback 5 b&w illus., 1 map
ISBN: 978-0-253-01520-4
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What are the consequences when international actors step in to protect LGBT people from discrimination with programs that treat their sexualities in isolation from the "facts on the ground"? Robert Lorway tells the story of the unexpected effects of The Rainbow Project (TRP), a LGBT rights program for young Namibians begun in response to President Nujoma's notorious hate speeches against homosexuals. Lorway highlights the unintended consequences of this program, many of which ran counter to the goals of local and international policy makers and organizers. He shows how TRP inadvertently diminished civil opportunities at the same time as it sought to empower youth to claim their place in Namibian culture and society. Tracking the fortunes of TRP over several years, Namibia’s Rainbow Project poses questions about its effectiveness in the faces of class distinction and growing inequality. It also speaks to ongoing problems for Western sexual minority rights programs in Africa in the midst of political violence, heated debates over anti-discrimination laws, and government-sanctioned anti-homosexual rhetoric.

Author Bio

Robert Lorway is Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba where he holds a New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.


“The story of the unexpected and unintended effects of The Rainbow Project, a LGBT rights program for young Namibians begun in response to President Nujoma's notorious hate speeches against homosexuals.”

“A vivid ethnography that presents a challenging analysis of the paradoxical effects of a project that follows the model of many, many parallel projects all over the world. Engages a specific locality with societal problems and theoretical issues. Ideal for teaching.”
 — Peter Geschiere, author of Witchcraft, Intimacy and Trust: Africa in Comparison

“Enriches our understanding of some very subtle and controversial cultural changes that have big political and health implications. The achievement of sexual minority rights will not be an easy or straightforward progress narrative.”
 — Marc Epprecht, author of Sexuality and Social Justice in Africa

“Namibia’s Rainbow Project is a monograph that will captivate readers and help to dispel persisting misconceptions about queer Africans. This book is likely to interest students and scholars of social movements, gender, and sexuality in southern Africa and scholars who specialise in Namibia.”
 — Journal of Southern Africa Studies

“[This book] should be compulsory reading for all those GLBT groups that have embraced global issues and forgotten the dangers of wading in without very carefully thinking through the long-term implications of immediate action. ”
 — Gay and Lesbian Review

“Namibia’s Rainbow Project is a very important book as it helps make sense of the time the Rainbow Youth live in and of how they can transform the situations they are facing. This book is creative and formulates key questions on the current Namibia’s social, economic, and political reality that help enlighten the African situation as a whole. This book is ideal for teaching and for young researchers who need to know the complexity of projects about politics and health in Africa. ”
 — Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“Overall, Lorway convincingly illustrates that the refiguring of identity categories and subjectivities by Western aid organizations is not the solution to Africa’s problems with homophobia or to the violent dilemmas faced by so many LGBT Africans. As in many other circumstances involving Western aid, it often does more harm than good.”
 — Africa

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Approaching the Transnational
1. The Instrumentality of Sex
2. Subjectivity as a Political Territory
3. Remaking Female Citizenship
4. The Naturalization of Intimate Partner Violence
5. Thinking Through the Foreigner Fetish
Conclusion: Post-structural Violence

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