C2C: Keynote Speaker Professor Deevia Bhana

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C2C: Keynote Speaker Professor Deevia Bhana
Keynote Date: Wednesday 26th June

Keynote Title: Facing South: Love, sex and teenage sexual cultures in South Africa

Abstract: Under conditions of ongoing economic misery and precarious social existences, the sexualities of young South Africans are often positioned within the realm of sexual danger and written and thought about as loveless. Instead, close-up studies of teenage sexualities brings teenagers’ pleasures, pains and desires to centre stage, and takes heed of its gendered effects and local configurations of power. It remains an embryonic field of study, and in this keynote presentation I join in the conversation in facing teenage sexualities in the South. I situate teenage con-structions of love, sexuality and desire within a wider social and cultural context underwritten by the histories of colonialism and apartheid, chronic unemployment, poverty, and stark economic and infrastructural inequalities. I draw on a larger research project titled Learning from the Learners, which views teenagers as active agents and has thus generated a more nuanced picture of young peoples’ desires, and the dangers and dilemmas they must navigate as they explore their sexuality. I show how teenagers’ are deeply invested in—and concerned about—many types of love: queer, romantic, pure, violent, material, and provider. I argue that teenagers’ conceptions of love, romance, fear and desire serve as important anchors in the social constitution of teenage sexuality; conversely, the expression of sexuality is often distressing in the context of structural violence, cultural norms, the regulation of female sexuality, and the hegemonic power of heterosexuality. Taking into account African teenagers’ in-your-face realities, this paper encourages an acknowledgment of their sexualities that rejects the stereotypes of fear and danger, and offers new entry points into more relevant sexuality education that can meet the needs of those that matter.

Bio: Professor Deevia Bhana is the NRF/DST South African Research Chair and Professor in Gender and Childhood Sexuality at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She is known for her interdisciplinary approach and critical stance in researching childhood sexuality, gender, schooling and young people in South Africa and her international outlook in shaping the field of young people’s sexualities. Among her recent book publications are Love, Sex and Teenage Sexual Cultures in South Africa; 16 turning 17 (2018) and Childhood Sexuality and AIDS Education: The price of innocence (2016); Gender and Childhood Sexuality in Primary School (2016) and Under Pressure: the regulation of sexualities in South African Secondary Schools (2014).

See Professor Bhana deliver her inaugural lecture at University of KwaZulu-Natal:

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