Governing Morality: Gender Sexuality & Migration

Governing Morality: Gender Sexuality and Migration

The regulation of gender and sexuality has been central to the construction of group identity in times of conflict and social change. To this end, sexuality and reproduction have often been actively governed in ways that maintain the boundaries of social groups. Examples include the unauthorised sterilization of black women in South Africa during apartheid, the immorality Act prohibiting sexual relationships across race groups, the anti-abortion laws in many countries and the ban on birth control in Northern Ireland, all of which have functioned to reproduce the nation and who belongs to it. Whilst there has been a rich body of work that has considered the ways in which gendered and sexual regulations were used to accomplish the notion of separate race groups in South Africa, there have been significant contextual changes since democracy. A concern with migrants as a threat in South Africa has (re)produced new forms of identity and belonging that nevertheless draw on past practices of racial meaning-making constructed during the apartheid era. In this new focus on migrants as an outsider group, a concern with sexual and gendered practices has once more emerged.

Projects under this theme include the Programme of work entitled Gender sexuality and migration in South Africa which considers how gender has shaped notions of humanitarianism in the asylum system and how the regulation of family life and notions of morality continues to shape migration policy through attention to sex work, trafficking and other gendered practices. In addition, this area of work considers how violence is justified through gendered notions of the nation where protection of the ‘womenandchildren’ legitimates exclusion of different groups of people in the name of defending the nation. In times of conflict everyday domestic practices such as clothing, food, music etc are often used to memorialize violence in ways that blur the boundaries between the domestic and the political. This memory from below is another key area of research in this theme.