We are delighted to announce two events in the next month. Firstly, on Monday 14 November Lucy Skerratt, from SIIBS and our sister project Orange is the New Bible, will be presenting a paper entitled Samson and the Salon. Lucy’s paper promises to be really exciting, and a fascinating engagement with contemporary ideas of identity alongside the ancient text. To mark World Aids Day (1 December), we will be hosting a special Hidden Perspective Presents…World AIDS Day on Monday 5 December. Dr Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds) will be sharing his paper, Same Love: Kenyan Courage and Creativity in the Struggle for Same-Sex Rights, and there will be a wine reception following his lecture. You can see more about the papers below.
Both lectures are free and will be held in the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) Conference Room (34 Gell Street, Sheffield, S3 7QY) from 14.00-16.00. Please come and join us!
Samson and the Salon: The construction of gendered identities through hair – Lucy Skerratt
Hair is the great identifier, but also the great divider. The way we present ourselves says a tremendous amount about our gender, sexuality, social location, politics, ethnicity, and economic class. Like the problematic biblical character Samson, when we lose our hair we also lose a part of ourselves and therefore an aspect of our identities. We become anonymous, associated with the other, and often, no longer seen as an individual. The story of Samson and Delilah in Judges 16 highlights this loss of self, especially in relation to Samson’s specific gender identity and troubling biblical construction of a distinct accepted form of masculinity. Samson’s teasing to his partner about his perceived weaknesses only end in him squandering his great strength and self hood which is only further reinforced by the tangling of his hair by Delilah, charming away elements of his character and masculine tropes until he becomes completely emasculated and lost within this explicit biblical gender binary. However, what is particularly pertinent is that when his hair starts to grow back, so does his strength, and likewise, part of his identity is restored. This paper will seek to explore the intersection between gender identities and hair as presented with the use of the character Samson. The aim will be to highlight the damaging impact such masculine tropes have on how we perceive marginal gender identities through hair expression by envisaging Samson as the biblical folk hero who ultimately, due to his loss of self, makes the ultimate sacrifice.
Same Love: Kenyan Courage and Creativity in the Struggle for SameSex Rights
One of the key populations at risk for HIV and Aids in Africa is the male samesex community. Thus, the struggle against HIV and Aids is directly linked to the struggle for the recognition of samesex rights. In spite of dominant narratives in the media where African LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) people tend to be depicted as victims of “African homophobia”, African LGB activists have recently demonstrated enormous courage and creativity in presenting themselves publicly, affirming their identities and claiming their rights. In this lecture I will discuss one such example: the Same Love music video, released in February 2016 by the Kenyan hip hop group Art Attack under the leadership of an openly gay and HIV positive gospel singer, George Barasa (alias Joji Baro). Analysing the video as an example of local LGB activism through popular art, the lecture will focus on the video’s representation of African LGB realities and its claim towards an explicitly Christian notion of love.