A collaborative project focusing on “Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Africa: the History and Current Status of LGBTQ+ in Kenya,” led by College of Arts & Letters faculty Jonathan Choti and Danny Mendez, will bring two guest speakers from Kenya to Michigan State University this spring to share their knowledge, experiences, approaches, and ideas in implementing intersectionality and inclusion in curriculum design and pedagogical practices.
The two Kenyan scholars, whose teaching and scholarship focus on the intersection of ethnicity, gender, class, disability, and sexuality, are Mumbi Machera, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at the University of Nairobi, and Babere Chacha, a faculty member in the Department of Public Affairs and Environmental Studies at Laikipia University. Their teaching and research emphasize the ways in which inequality based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, class, and other forms of discrimination intersect to create unique dynamics and effects in African societies.
Choti, an Assistant Professor of African Languages and Cultures in MSU’s Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures (LiLaC), and Mendez, an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies (RCS), pursue similar themes in their research and teaching.
Choti’s research interests and teaching include the intersectionality of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, locality, and age in shaping lived experiences in Africa while Mendez’s work focuses on gender and sexuality in Dominican and Dominican-American literature; race, ethnicity, and narrative national constructions in Latin America and Caribbean literature; and cultural, trauma, diaspora, and gender in contemporary Caribbean women narratives.
“We will be able to build constructive dialogues with scholars from Kenya whose work addresses similar issues to those we address in our teaching and research.”Danny Mendez, Associate Professor of Spanish
Choti and Mendez, together with Machera and Chacha, will co-create knowledge on intersectionality and inclusion in research, as well as curriculum design and delivery as experienced in different cultural contexts and academic disciplines.
“Having a primary focus on issues related to race, sexuality, and immigration in the Hispanic Caribbean, I am delighted to collaborate with my colleague, Jonathan Choti,” Mendez said. “We will be able to build constructive dialogues with scholars from Kenya whose work addresses similar issues to those we address in our teaching and research.”
In addition, Machera and Chacha also will interact with Choti’s students who will be completing projects on gender and sexuality in Africa during the Spring 2023 semester. Choti’s classes that are related to the theme of the project include Area Studies and Multicultural Civilizations-Africa (IAH 211A), Democratic Discourse and Critique: Gender Inequality and Democratic Debate in Africa (AL 210), Gender Diversity and Sexuality in Africa (UGS 200H).
The project activities also will benefit Mendez’s courses, especially Gender, Race, and Sexuality in the Popular Culture of the Insular Hispanic Caribbean and its Diasporas (GSAH 230); Sex and Sexuality in the Popular Culture of the Hispanic Caribbean and Its Diaspora (SPN 875); and Race, Sexual Identity, and Gender in Contemporary Latin American Literature (SPN 491). These are courses Mendez has developed and taught in the past, and he plans to revise them as a result of the events from this collaboration.
“Our students and colleagues will benefit from the insights of Machera and Chacha,” Mendez said. “This will enable them to deepen their understanding of how gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and class are interconnected in African societies.”
As part of the project, a symposium will be held on campus later in the spring that will focus on “Gender, Diversity, and Sexuality in Africa.” Choti, Mendez, Machera, and Chacha all will present at the symposium as well as students in Choti’s Gender, Diversity, and Sexuality in Africa class (UGS 200H).
“Through this collaborative project, we will share our teaching and research experiences on intersectionality, especially regarding gender and sexual inequalities as scholarly topics and lived experience across diverse cultures.”Jonathan Choti, Assistant Professor of African Languages and Cultures
“Through this collaborative project, we will share our teaching and research experiences on intersectionality, especially regarding gender and sexual inequalities as scholarly topics and lived experiences across diverse cultures,” Choti said. “The symposium participants — students and faculty alike — will gain knowledge from the presentations and interactions with the facilitators.”
The “Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Africa: the History and Current Status of LGBTQ+ in Kenya” project is supported by a 2022-2023 College of Arts & Letters Engaged Pedagogy and Programming Fund Grant. LiLaC, RCS, and MSU’s African Studies Center also provided additional funds.
“I am grateful to the College of Arts & Letters for the grant opportunity and African Studies Center, and Departments of Romance and Classical Studies and Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures for additional support,” Choti said.
Choti and Mendez hope this joint project will foster international collaboration and allow the continuation of the sharing of knowledge. This will in turn influence future internal and cross-regional collaborations that could help shape the future of the study of these topics at MSU.