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Title: Revisiting the porno-tropics: construction of masculinities at the interracial contact zone
Authors: Hendriks, Thomas # ×
Issue Date: 9-Sep-2011
Conference: European Geographies of Sexualities Conference location:Brussels date:8-10 September 2011
Abstract: In this paper I discuss a part of my long-term ethnographical research in a selected logging concession in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this paradigmatic wilderness where Conrad’s psychology in the Heart of Darkness is an everyday reality beyond its spectacle of horror, white expats and black laborers live on the rhythm of an international company exporting logs and timber to Europe. I conceptualize this concession as a place neither rural nor urban; at the same time a heterotopia imposing order on a surrounding wilderness and a site for imperial nostalgia; a non-place of (im)mobility and boredom and a porno-tropic environment for white desire; a trap for black hope on a better life and a site of labor exploitation, racism and violence.
For this conference, I highlight the everyday construction and negotiation of black and white masculinities at the interracial contact zone, both entwined in a dialectic of competition and desire mobilized around the male body. I offer a critique of a too narrow interpretation of Anne McClintock’s concept of the porno-tropics as not just a field of sexual opportunities to live out hidden desires, but also a space of frustration and emasculation that can profoundly destabilize established white masculinities. Furthermore, I look into the always already gendered nature of logging activities and offer a queer reading of the omnipresent penetration metaphor in Africanist forest symbolism. I end this paper by questioning the methodological possibilities of such queer readings in Central African ethnographies and reflect upon the contributions of queer theory to ethnographical practices.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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