Same-Sex intimacies in the early African text Gädlä Wälättä P̣eṭros (1672): Queer reading an Ethiopian woman saint

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Abstract

The earliest known book-length biography about an African woman, writ-ten in 1672 in the Gəˁəz language, The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Wälättä P̣eṭros, features a life-long partnership between two women and same-sex sexuality among nuns. Revered Ethiopian Orthodox Täwaḥədo Church leader Wälättä P̣ eṭros (1592–1642) and another nun, ḫətä Krəstos, “lived together in mutual love, like soul and body” until death. Other nuns are depicted as “being lustful” with each other. Interpreting the women’s relationships in this Ethiopian text requires different reading protocols, merging surface and symptomatic reading as well as attending to Ethiopian authorial and interpretive practices, protocols for which queer theory pro-vides useful warnings and tools. This is the first scholarly article proffering a queer reading of pre-twentieth-century sub-Saharan African literature. By foregrounding a text in an African language, this article alerts us to the dimensions of and possibilities for queer experiences outside of the arena of twentieth-century Europhone African literatures.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)20-45
Number of pages26
JournalResearch in African Literatures
Volume47
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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