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Open Access Shifting borderlands

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Within Africa’s long history of migration, this article focuses on the specific context of South Africa’s recent influx of people fleeing persecution, violence, and discrimination on the grounds of their gender identity/expression. This paper conceptualises people who can make claims to the refugee status, fleeing their countries of origin based on the persecution of their gender identity as ‘gender refugees’. I argue that gender refugees are different from sexual refugees in that their pre-dominant forced migration issue pertains to their gender identity, which is perceived as incongruent to their birth-assigned sex. Drawing on life story interviews carried out by the author between 2013 and 2015 with gender refugees living in South Africa, along with analysis of media and archival materials, this paper explores how, when, and under what circumstances transgender-identified individuals from countries in Africa are forced to journey, and come to seek refuge in South Africa specifically. Utilising the notions of ‘shifting’ and ‘discomfort’ as analytics in relation to narratives provided, I suggest that South Africa functions as a pan-African national imaginary, even for migrants, which represents a particular understanding of freedom due to widespread knowledge of its unique Constitutional precepts. In conclusion, I emphasise how the State in gender refugees’ countries of origin, which sanctions the possibility of death for transgender people as exemplary subjects, plays an especially transformative role in the decision to flee.
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Keywords: borderlands; gender migration; necropolitics; transgender Africa; transgender asylum

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 11, 2017

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  • Het Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies is het forum voor de wetenschappelijke problematisering van sekse in relatie tot andere vormen van discriminatie en uitsluiting zoals etniciteit, seksualiteit, klasse of leeftijd. Er worden artikelen in gepubliceerd over gendervraagstukken vanuit alle relevante disciplines die een wetenschappelijke bijdrage leveren aan debatten over gender en intersectionaliteit in Nederland en Vlaanderen. Het tijdschrift is een interdisciplinair medium op het kruispunt van maatschappij-, cultuur-, geestes-, gezondheids- en natuurwetenschappen. Het verschijnt vier keer per jaar en biedt wetenschappelijke artikelen en daarnaast ook interviews, boekrecensies, discussiedossiers en opiniërende artikelen in het Nederlands en Engels. Artikelen worden dubbelblind beoordeeld door externe deskundigen.

    The Tijdschrift voor Genderstudies (Journal of Gender Studies) is a Dutch language forum for the scientific problematisation of gender in relation to ethnicity, sexuality, class, and age. The journal aims to contribute to debates about gender and diversity in the Netherlands and Flanders. The journal is an interdisciplinary medium operating at the intersection of society, culture, the humanities, health and science. The editorial staff is open to articles about gender issues from different disciplines, and also accepts English articles. As well as publishing articles, the journal includes essays, columns (short topical and polemical articles), interviews, reviews, summaries of dissertations and conference reports. Articles are subjected to a double blind peer review process.
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