Review of Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing Namibia and South Africa

Published: June 2, 2014

In Out of Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa, Ashley Currier explores the inner workings of LGBT movements as they target state and social change. She shows that LGBT organizations navigate their visibility, remaining acutely aware of the audiences that they engage and the contexts in which they operate—a phenomenon that will resonate with many LGBT people on a personal level.  Beyond the “visibility matters” assertion present in much social movement research, which has treated the concept as an attribute of movement relevance, Currier demonstrates how—depending on time and place—movements consciously use both visibility and invisibility strategies. She argues that visibility matters to movements in a variety of ways. It enhances the movement’s social and political relevance and the activists’ ability to disseminate demands and ideas. Visibility also offers movements the credibility necessary for improving their standing with the target audiences they wish to influence (p. 1). At the same time, invisibility can also be good for movements when (a) “political circumstances become hostile to organized resistance” and (b) “activists must withdraw from public visibility to respond to internal crises” (p. 1). The cases of Namibia and South Africa provide the appropriate foil with which to make these claims, since Currier’s rich ethnographic work demonstrates that organizational strategies had varied trajectories in these countries.

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