Navigating visibility in contexts of state-sanctioned homophobia: development actors and LGBTQ rights defenders in Uganda and Russia
In a time of sharp polarisation around LGBTQ issues, rights advocates are met with fierce resistance in an increasing number of contexts. Despite hostilities, rights defenders need to become publicly visible as a group to raise awareness, seek support for rights claims, forge alliances and attract funding. The purpose of the project is to understand how visibility strategies and visibility management shape the agency of LGBTQ rights defenders in contexts of state-sanctioned homophobia, as well as examine how development partners (un)intentionally influence visibility practices through rhetoric and funding preferences.
By mapping funding patterns and conducting interviews with rights defenders at four LGBTQ organisations in Uganda and Russia, as well as analyse visibility practices in digital spaces; we seek to capture the rights defenders’ understanding of visibility, visibility pressures and corresponding visibility practices.
Through a theoretical framework that combines agency, intersectionality studies and political opportunity structures, the study aims to contribute to a deepened and more nuanced conceptualisation of visibility and its role in empowering marginalised groups, exploring when, for whom, where and what kinds of visibility are conducive to rights struggles in repressive contexts.
The study also seeks to increase development partners’ awareness pertaining unwitting impact on rights defenders’ agency, and expand capacity to develop context appropriate methods for repressive contexts.
The project team consists of project leader Emil Edenborg, The Swedish Institute of International Affairs; Cecilia Strand, Department of Informatics and Media at Uppsala University; and Jakob Svensson, Malmö University.
Funding and project period
The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council over three years, 1 August 2021 – 1 August 2024.