My name is Austin Bryan, and I am a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at Northwestern University. In Kampala, Uganda I am completing an ethnographic study on the daily lives of kuchus (LGBT*) persons. My research has appeared in the Journal of Eastern African Studies and more work can be found here.
My current research focuses on the anthropology and history of contemporary Uganda with specific focus on the criminalization, regulation, and advancement of certain sexual and gender identities. In my work with activists at Sexual Minorities Uganda, I have observed that although homosexuality is understood as criminalized by the international community and as an exceptional case of human rights abuse because of the notorious 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, many activists refute both claims on meticulous grounds. Drawing from human rights case documentation, I have found those who are disproportionately arrested, harassed, and tortured by state and non-state actors, identify not as homosexual but as transgender or having experienced violence based on their gender transgressions. The semantic drift of colonial law coupled with new meanings attached to contemporary bills regularly introduced in the Parliament of Uganda, requires sexual and gender minorities, along with the professionalizing activists who make claims of representation, to craft specific performances to get by, make life livable, and establish lives of value in the global market.
My research interests range more broadly from gender and sexuality to the anthropology of law, race, performativity, identity and membership, development and humanitarianism, popular culture, and digital anthropology. I am interested in incorporating art, design and filmmaking in my ethnographic methodology and my first exhibits with Keith King documented the daily lives and creativity of trans* Ugandans. I blog on working ideas related to my research and I am interested engaging the public because I want these conversations to not just serve those inside Anthropology but also those who are involved directly in struggles for justice. I am a reviewer for the African Journal of AIDS Research and the Journal of Homosexuality. I am an alum of the State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship (Swahili ’18) and a graduate of North Carolina State University (Africana Studies ’18) where I was both a Park Scholar and Caldwell Fellow.
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