On Sept. 30 through Oct. 3, the Central New York Center (CNYC) of Empire State College, in Syracuse, NY, hosted the IRN-Africa conference. This was an amazing group—about 40 in all—of scholars, artists, and activists from around the world who do research on gender and sexuality in Africa. Folks came from Sweden, Switzerland, Ghana, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Canada and the U.S.A. This conference also served as a professional development activity for faculty, all of whom noted that the quality of the paper presentations was outstanding. As part of the conference, CNYC held a photo exhibit by Zanele Muholi, a Johannesburg-based lesbian activist and artist, on loan from the Michael Stevenson Gallery in South Africa. Participants were also treated to a dinner at one of Syracuse’s best downtown resturants, Pastabilities, by Syracuse University’s LGBT Studies Program.
The program included presentations on topics ranging from Queer Identities in Africa and the Diaspora to Artistic Interventions: sexuality, art & media. Discussions were exciting and thought-provoking, and the sessions often exceeded the assigned time as participants shared ideas, resources, and critiques.
“I was amazed by the breadth and depth of the research that was brought together at this conference,” said Deborah Amory, dean of the Central New York Center. “While there were many people involved in the planning and execution of this conference, it is clear that without the support of Empire State College, this group of fabulous people would not have been brought together and I thank the many supporters within my Empire State College community.”
The International Resource Network in Africa (IRN-Africa) aims to link people doing research, both academic and community based, in areas related to gender and sexuality in Africa. They promote international communication and exchange through scholarship to expand knowledge building, foster comparative and collaborative projects among researchers, advance curricular and course development, and widen the availability of scholarly resources.