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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Asha Nadkarni

Second Advisor

Stephen Clingman

Third Advisor

Laura Briggs

Subject Categories

Africana Studies | American Literature | American Popular Culture | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority


This project considers how queerness shaped futurity in the rise of the religious right in the United States and in the transition to democracy in South Africa. Tracking various representations of future-thinking from 1977-2010 through the opposing concepts of “promise” and “failure,” I examine the role of queer subjectivities in fomenting these two cultural-politico formations. Framing queerness both as a socio-historical phenomenon and as a product of complex transnational confluence and entanglement, I historicize the development of queer discourse within the gay rights, civil rights, and anti-apartheid movements of the United States and South Africa. Defining queerness in terms of racial, class, sexual, and national belonging, this project advocates for queer comparison that acknowledges the myriad of messy attachments which populate the US/South Africa literary, cultural, and geopolitical terrain. Chapter one delineates the boundaries of queer identities, culture, and discourse within the geopolitical landscapes of the U.S. and South Africa during the 1980’s-2000’s. It considers how gay rights emerged as a unique node of cultural panic and promise. Chapter two examines the queer “white trash” or “poor white” figure in Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina and Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf. I argue that this race/class configuration reveals the queer failures of white hegemony. Chapter three considers how Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children campaign instrumentalized queerness to bolster its eugenic and Christian nationalist investments in mothers and children. Chapter four examines the role of anti-apartheid and gay rights activist, Simon Nkoli, in both bringing gay identity to the political fore and in reworking South African concepts of political action. Focusing on the ways HIV/AIDS queers the idea of childhood innocence, chapter five explores how the stories of Ryan White and Nkosi Johnson forecast white middle-class demise and offer white motherhood as one model for cultural redemption. Chapter six examines two representations of apocalyptic fiction and the diverse ways these narratives approach the specter of the future. Locating Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series in the history of “rapture fiction” and the development of Christian media and Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City within the explosion of postapartheid crime and speculative fiction, I argue that queerness predicates all hope for futurity.