Genders, Sexualities and Cities: A Review of South African Literatures




intersections, genders, sexualities, cities, review, South Africa


Well-developed bodies of literature—of course with major lacunae as well as strengths—exist in relation to two areas of research and thought relevant to the emergence of better cities in the tortured territory and society of South Africa. The more personal scale deals with genders and sexualities and is energetic, young, globally linked and relatively open. At city scale, extensive literatures are voluminous though sometimes tied to global urban conceptual traditions, although there are many creative and original contributions too. From the perspective of intersections between the person and the city, what is lacking is more substantial work which brings questions common in genders and sexualities literatures to city scale enquiry, and some of the techniques of city enquiry into genders and sexualities research more broadly. There exists, however, a variety of types of work which consciously (sometimes otherwise) brings gender and sexuality studies to the city, and, in turn, brings city studies to exploration of genders and sexualities. The modest purpose of this intervention is to survey such literatures and to generate new questions for conceptualisation, research and writing. The intention is to aid new entrants to the field of genders, sexualities and cities to add creatively and substantially to scholarship.


Bagnol, B., Matebeni, Z., Simon, A., Blaser, T. M., Manuel, S., and Moutinho, L. (2010). Transforming youth identities: Interactions across “races/colors/ethnicities,” gender, class, and sexualities in Johannesburg, South Africa. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7, 283–297. DOI:

Batra, K. (2016). Worlding sexualities under apartheid: From gay liberation to a queer afropolitanism. Postcolonial Studies, 19(1), 37–52. DOI:

Beall, J., Hassim, S., & Todes, A. (1991). “A bit on the side”?: Gender struggles in the politics of transformation in South Africa. Feminist Review, 33(1), 30–56. DOI:

Beall, J., & Todes, A. (2004). Headlines and head-space: Challenging gender planning orthodoxy in area-based urban development. IDS Bulletin, 35(4), 43–50. DOI:

Bozzoli, B. (1983). Marxism, feminism and South African studies. Journal of Southern African Studies, 9(2), 139–171. DOI:

Camminga, B. (2020). Marooned: Seeking asylum as a transgender person in Johannesburg. In N. Falkof & K. van Staden (Eds.), Anxious Joburg: The inner lives of a Global South city (pp. 205–225). Johannesburg: Wits University Press. DOI:

Cane, J. (2019). Cruising queer, old Joburg. Anthropology Southern Africa, 42(1), 14–28. DOI:

Canham, H. (2017). Mapping the black queer geography of Johannesburg’s lesbian women through narrative. Psychology in Society, 55, 84–107. DOI:

Dalu, M. T. B., Manyani, A., & Masunungure, C. (2020). Gender inclusivity and development in South African public urban spaces. In R. Massey & A. Gunter (Eds.), Urban geography in South Africa (pp. 239–250). Springer. DOI:

De Waal, S., & Manion, A. (Eds.). (2006). Pride: Protest and celebration. Johannesburg: Jacana.

Dirsuweit, T., & Mohamed, S. (2016). Vertical and horizontal communities of practice: Gender and geography in South Africa. South African Geographical Journal, 98(3), 531–541. DOI:

Elder, G. S. (2005). Somewhere, over the rainbow: Cape Town, South Africa, as a “gay destination”. In L. Ouzgane & R. Morrell (Eds.), African masculinities (pp. 43–59). Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Epprecht, M. (2004). Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in South Africa. McGill-Queen’s University Press. DOI:

Gevisser, M. (2014). Lost and found in Johannesburg: A memoir. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Gevisser, M. (2020). The pink line: Journeys across the world’s queer frontiers. Cape Town: Jonathan Ball.

Ghaziani, A. (2015). The queer metropolis. In J. DeLamater & R. F. Plante (Eds.), Handbook of the sociology of sexualities (pp. 305–330). Cham: Springer. DOI:

Ghaziani, A. (2019). Cultural archipelagos: New directions in the study of sexuality and space. City & Community, 18(1), 4–22. DOI:

Gould, C. (2008). Selling sex in Cape Town—Sex work and trafficking in a South African city. Pretoria: International Institute for Security Studies.

Gunkel, H. (2010). The cultural politics of female sexuality in SA. New York: Routledge. DOI:

Hunter, M. (2002). The materiality of everyday sex: Thinking beyond “prostitution”. African Studies, 61(1), 99–120. DOI:

Krouse, M., & Berman, K. (Eds.). (1995). The invisible ghetto: Lesbian and gay writing from South Africa. London: Gay Men’s Press.

Leap, W. (2001). Strangers on a train: Sexuality, citizenship and the politics of public transportation in apartheid South Africa. In A. Cruz-Malave & M. F. Manalansan (Eds.), Queer globalization/local homosexualities: Citizenship, sexualities and the afterlife of colonialism. New York: New York University Press.

Lemon, A., Donaldson, R., & Visser, G. (Eds.). (2021). South African urban change three decades after apartheid: Homes still apart? Springer. DOI:

Livermon, X. (2014). Soweto nights: Making black queer space in post-apartheid South Africa. Gender, Place & Culture, 21(4), 508–525. DOI:

Lock Swarr, A. (2012). Sex in transition—Remaking gender and race in South Africa. SUNY Press. DOI:

Luirink, B. (2000). Moffies: Gay life in southern Africa. Johannesburg: David Philip.

Maharaj, N., & Maharaj, B. (2004). Engendering local government in post-apartheid South Africa: Experiences of female councilors in Durban (1996–2000). GeoJournal, 61(3), 263–272. DOI:

Makhulu, A-M. (2010). The “dialectics of toil”: Reflections on the politics of space after apartheid. Anthropological Quarterly, 83(3), 551–580. DOI:

Martin, Y. (2020). “Now I am not afraid”: Simon Nkoli, queer utopias and transnational solidarity. Journal of Southern African Studies, 46(4), 673–687. DOI:

Massey, R., and Gunter, A. (Eds.). (2020). Urban geography in South Africa: Perspectives and theory. Springer. DOI:

Matebeni, Z. (2011). Exploring black lesbian sexualities and identities in Johannesburg [Doctoral thesis, University of the Witwatersrand].

Memela, S., & Maharaj, B. (2018). Refugees, violence and gender: The case of women in the Albert Park area in Durban, South Africa. Urban Forum, 29, 429–443. DOI:

Meth, P. (2017). Informal housing, gender, crime and violence: The role of design in urban South Africa. British Journal of Criminology, 57(2), 402–421. DOI:

Meth, P., and Malaza, K. (2003). Violent research: The ethics and emotions of doing research with women in South Africa. Ethics, Place and Environment, 6(2), 143–159. DOI:

Morrell, R. (2016). Making southern theory? Gender researchers in South Africa. Feminist Theory, 17(2), 191–209. DOI:

Morrell, R., & Clowes, L. (2016). The growth of gender research in South Africa and southern theory. Gender Questions, 4(1), 1–18. DOI:

Müller, B. M. (2019).The (un)promised land: Queer identity and South Africa’s post-apartheid urban landscape. Gender, Place & Culture, 26(11), 1609–1631. DOI:

Munro, B. M. (2012). South Africa and the dream of love to come: Queer sexuality and the struggle for freedom. University of Minnesota Press.

Musariri, L., & Moyer, E. (2021). A black man is a cornered man: Migration, precarity and masculinities in Johannesburg. Gender, Place & Culture, 28(6), 888–905. DOI:

Naidoo, S. (2017, 20 August). Living in the shadows as a transgender sex worker. Sunday Times.

Ncube, G. (2013). [Review of the book South Africa and the dream of love to come: Queer sexuality and the struggle for freedom, by B. M. Munro]. Gender Questions 1(1), 131–133. DOI:

Ngidi, N. D., Ramphalile, M, Essack, Z., & Van Rooyen, H. (2020). Exploring queerphobic geographies in southern Africa. Agenda, 34(2), 18–31. DOI:

Oldfield, S., & Tucker, A. (2019). Persistent pasts, present struggles, imagined futures: Gender geographies in South Africa after apartheid. Gender, Place & Culture, 26(7–9), 1243–1252. DOI:

Oliveira, E., & Vearey, J. (2015). Images of place: Visuals from migrant women sex workers in South Africa. Medical Anthropology, 34(4), 305–318. DOI:

Pacey, B. (2014). The emergence and recognition of moffies as popular entertainers in the Cape Minstrel Carnival. South African Theatre Journal, 27(2), 111–24. DOI:

Palmary, I. (2017). Gender, sexuality and migration in South Africa: Governing morality. Palgrave Macmillan. DOI:

Pattman, R., and Khan, S. (Eds.). (2007). Undressing Durban. Durban: Madiba Press.

Peake, L. (2016). The twenty-first century quest for feminism and the global urban. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 40(1), 219–227. DOI:

Pieterse, J. (2013). Dictionaries and discourses of deviance: Changing representations of “moffie” and the reorganisation of sexual categories among Afrikaans speakers during the second half of the twentieth century. South African Historical Journal, 65(4), 618–637. DOI:

Ramsden-Karelse, R. (2020). Moving and moved: Reading Kewpie’s District Six. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 26(3), 405–438. DOI:

Ratele, K. (2009). Apartheid, anti-apartheid and apartheid sexualities. In M. Steyn & M. van Zyl (Eds), The prize and the price: Shaping sexualities in SA (pp. 290–305). Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Ratele, K. (2021). An invitation to decoloniality in work on (African) men and masculinities. Gender, Place & Culture, 28(6), 769–785. DOI:

Rink, B. (2008). Community as utopia: Reflections on De Waterkant. Urban Forum, 19(2), 205–220. DOI:

Rink, B. (2013). Que(e)rying Cape Town: Touring Africa’s gay capital with the pink map. In J. Sarmento & E. Brito-Henriques (Eds.), Tourism in the Global South: Heritages, identities and development (pp. 65–90). Lisbon: Lisbon Centre for Geographical Studies.

Rink, B. (2016). Quartering the city in discourse and bricks: Articulating urban change in a South African enclave. Urban Forum, 27(1), 19–34. DOI:

Rink, B. (2022). Public space on the move: Mediating mobility, stillness and encounter on a Cape Town bus. Urban Studies. DOI:

Robinson, J. (1997). The geopolitics of South African cities: States, citizens, territory. Political Geography, 16(5), 365–386. DOI:

Salo, E., Ribas, M., Lopes, P., & Zamboni, M. (2010). Living our lives on the edge: Power, space and sexual orientation in Cape Town townships, South Africa. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7, 298–309. DOI:

Schmidt, H. (2007). [Review of the book Hungochani: The history of a dissident sexuality in South Africa, by M. Epprecht]. Journal of African History, 48(2), 332–333. DOI:

Shefer, T. (2021). “Troubling” politics of research on young sexual practices in South African contexts. Feminist Encounters, 5(1), 1–12. DOI:

Shefer, T., & Foster, D. (2009). Heterosex among young South Africans: Research reflections. In M. Steyn and M. van Zyl (Eds.), The prize and the price: Shaping sexualities in South Africa (pp. 267–289). Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Shefer, T., & Hearn, J. (2022). Knowledge, power and young sexualities. Routledge. DOI:

Shefer, T., & Ratele, K. (2023). South African critical masculinities studies: A scan of past, current and emerging priorities. International Journal for Masculinity Studies, 18(2), 72–88. DOI:

Steyn, M., & Van Zyl, M. (Eds.). (2009). The prize and the price: Shaping sexualities in SA. Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Strebel, A., Shefer, T., Potgieter, C., Wagner, C., & Shabalala, N. (2013). “He’s a slut . . . and it’s wrong”: Youth constructions of “taxi queens” in the transport sector in the Western Cape. South African Journal of Psychology, 43(1), 71–80. DOI:

Swartz, A., Colvin, C., & Harrison, A. (2016). The Cape Town boyfriend and the Joburg boyfriend: Women’s sexual partnerships and social networks in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Social Dynamics, 42(2), 237–252. DOI:

Teppo, A. (2009). A decent place? Space and morality in a former “poor white” suburb. In M. Steyn & M. van Zyl, The prize and the price: Shaping sexualities in SA (pp. 220–233). Cape Town: HSRC Press.

Todes, A. (1995). Gender in metropolitan development strategies. The case of Durban. Cities, 12(5), 327–336. DOI:

Todes, A., Sithole, P., & Williamson, A. (2010). Including women? (Dis)junctures between voice, policy and implementation in integrated development planning. Urban Forum, 21, 69–84. DOI:

Tucker, A. (2009). Queer visibilities: Space, identity and interactions in Cape Town. Wiley. DOI:

Tucker, A. (2010). Shifting boundaries of sexual identities in Cape Town: The appropriation and malleability of “gay” in township spaces. Urban Forum, 21(2), 107–122. DOI:

Tucker, A. (2022). A sexuality pivot: Thinking through solidarity, geographies of sexuality, and a world in transition. Dialogues in Human Geography. DOI:

Tucker, A., & Hassan, N. (2020). Situating sexuality: An interconnecting research agenda in the urban global south. Geoforum, 117, 287–290. DOI:

Vetten, L. (2016). Unintended complicities: preventing violence against women in South Africa. Gender & Development, 24(2), 291–306. DOI:

Visser, G. (2003a). Gay men, tourism and urban space: Reflections on Africa’s “gay capital”. Tourism Geographies, 5(2), 168–189. DOI:

Visser, G. (2003b). Gay men, leisure space and South African cities: The case of Cape Town. Geoforum, 34(1), 123–37. DOI:

Visser, G. (2008). Exploratory notes on the geography of black gay leisure spaces in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Urban Forum, 19(4), 413–423. DOI:

Visser, G. (2011). [Review of the book Geographies of sexualities: Theory, practices and politics, edited by K. Browne, J. Lim and G. Brown]. South African Geographical Journal, 93(2), 211–212. DOI:

Visser, G. (2013). Challenging the gay ghetto in South Africa: Time to move on? Geoforum, 49, 268–274. DOI:

Visser, G. (2023). Moving beyond the gay metropolises: Lessons learned from Stellenbosch. Urban Forum, 16. DOI:

Ward, K., Binnie, J., Brown, G., Browne, K., Ingram, A., Isaacs, G., Leap, W., & Tucker, A. (2010). Reading Andrew Tucker’s queer visibilities: Space, identity and interactions in Cape Town. Political Geography, 29(8), 454–462. DOI:

Wilson, A. (2014). Sexualities. In D. M. Nonini (Ed.), A companion to urban anthropology (pp. 193–209). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. DOI:



How to Cite

Mabin, A. (2023). Genders, Sexualities and Cities: A Review of South African Literatures. Social and Health Sciences, 21(1 and 2), 19 pages .



Special Issue