“Gender Refugees” in South Africa: The “Common-Sense” Paradox, in: Africa Spectrum

B Camminga. (2018) “Gender Refugees” in South Africa: The “Common-Sense” Paradox, Africa Spectrum, 53, 1, 89–112.

This article is the runner up for the UFS/AS Young African Scholars Award. Join us in congratulating maHp/ ACMS postdoctoral researcher B Camminga for this great achievement, along with their recent selection as one of the Mail & Guardian (M&G) 200 Young South Africans.

Camminga’s research focuses on knowledge production and concepts of the everyday in relation to the needs of transgender and gender-transgressive asylum seekers from across Africa. In particular, they say: “I am interested in how transgender and gender-transgressive identity functions in South Africa and how asylum seekers come to access the country in order to find a perceived/hoped for notion of freedom and safety within the country’s borders.”

South Africa is the only country on the African continent that constitutionally protects transgender asylum seekers. In light of this, it has seen a marked rise in the emergence of this category of person within the asylum system. Drawing on research carried out between 2012 and 2015, I argue that transgender-identified refugees or “gender refugees” from Africa, living in South Africa, rather than accessing refuge continue to experience significant hindrances to their survival comparable with the persecution experienced in their countries of origin. I argue this is in part due to the nature of their asylum claim in relation to gender as a wider system of “common-sense” dichotomous administration, something which remains relatively constant across countries of origin and refugee-receiving countries. Rather than being protected gender refugees, because they are read as violating the rules of normative gender, they find themselves paradoxically with rights, but unable to access them.

About B Camminga

B Camminga (*they) joined the African Centre for Migration & Society as a Postdoctoral Researcher in 2018.

B's previous work tracked the conceptual journeying of the term ‘transgender’ from the Global North along with the physically embodied journeying of transgender asylum seekers from countries within Africa to South Africa and considered the interrelationships between the two.

Their research interests include rights, migration, asylum and diaspora as they relate to transgender people from the African continent; the bureaucratisation of gender in relation to transgender bodies and asylum regimes globally; possibilities for mobility and migration of transgender identified people from, across and within the African region and the history of ‘trans phenomena’ in South Africa.