Identity has become the watchword of our times. In sub-Saharan Africa, this certainly appears to be true and for particular reasons. Africa is urbanising rapidly, cross-border migration streams are swelling and globalising influences sweep across the continent. Africa is also facing up to the challenge of nurturing emergent democracies in which citizens often feel torn between older traditional and newer national loyalties. Accordingly, collective identities are deeply coloured by recent urban as well as international experience and are squarely located within identity politics where reconciliation is required between state nation-building strategies and sub-national affiliations. They are also fundamentally shaped by the growing inequality and the poverty found on this continent. These themes are explored by an international set of scholars in two South African and two Francophone cities. The relative importance to urban residents of race, class and ethnicity but also of work, space and language are compared in these cities.
Hijab: Unveiling Queer Muslim Lives is the first known collection of South African Muslim stories relating to Islam and sexual diversity. This anthology shares reallife stories of people that have struggled, or may still be struggling, to reconcile their spirituality and their sexuality. These are stories that illustrate the oneness of being and reflect on how some interpretations of the scriptures may alienate others. Although the collection focuses predominantly on Muslim stories, it is universal in its approach in dealing with spirituality rather than religion.
The stories are all biographies, or autobiographies, and the writing process was a therapeutic one for the authors of these powerful stories. Hopefully they will provide strength and courage to others in similar situations, not so much through a deeper understanding of those who share their stories in this collection, but rather through a process of identification with the circumstances related by these courageous story-tellers.