Hostility, Visibility and the Digital Voices of LGBT+ Refugees in Kenya

In March 2014, the first group of LGBT+ Ugandan asylum seekers in Kenya made themselves known to the UNHCR. Their existence made visible a significant geo-political tension: Kenya’s domestic legislation does not recognize LGBT+ rights, while the UNHCR – through its mandate of international protection – does. In an effort to resolve this, the UNHCR established what can be understood as a parallel legal regime, providing financial support, safe housing for LGBT+ claimants and fast-tracking them for resettlement. Yet, in the wake of ongoing LGBT+ persecution in East Africa, COVID-19 & diminishing resettlement slots, this ‘short-term solution’ model is no longer viable and is contested. Bodies at the Borders’ primary aim is to explore the everyday experiences of LGBT+ refugees, particularly their efforts to navigate informality and insecurity within urban Nairobi. It also seeks to unpack what their increasingly visible presence means both for Kenya and for global protection mechanisms.

Host Institutions

The Centre of African Studies (CAS)  at the University of Edinburgh is one of Europe’s leading hubs of Africanist expertise and the largest Centre of African Studies in the UK. It hosts a vibrant, cutting edge research community and delivers a range of high-quality masters and doctoral programmes. Our postgraduate degrees are delivered both on campus and online.

CAS researchers are internationally recognised. We currently host over twenty-five research projects, including several large, international collaborative projects, and engage in cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research across the continent. Our scholars are committed to the critical study of a diverse range of topics as well as the pursuit of inclusive, ethical and equitable partnerships. 

CAS has a long-standing collaboration with the African Centre for Migration and Society (ACMS) at Wits University through research and teaching, with our members of staff frequently exchanging between Centres. Bodies at the Borders represents one of these fruitful collaboration.

The African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) is Africa’s leading scholarly institution for research and teaching on human mobility. Established in 1993, ACMS is an independent, interdisciplinary and internationally engaged institution focusing on the relationships among human movement politics, poverty, and social transformation. While oriented towards southern Africa, the Centre conducts collaborative scholarly and policy-oriented work across sub-Saharan Africa, and has partnerships in Asia, Europe and the Americas. It offers Africa’s only post-graduate degrees in migration and displacement studies and provides training to students and professionals on a number of topics including the sociology of migration, mobility and health, human rights, and research methods. While maintaining its scholarly independence, the Centre regularly partners with organisations in government and civil society in identifying data needs, conducting research and shaping policy. Centre staff are also regularly called on to provide expert advice and commentary to international organisations, governments, and the media.​

The British Academy.
This project is funded by the British Academy’s Humanities and Social Sciences Tackling Global Challenges Programme, supported under the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Image credit: detail from [Senegalese Cans: Vimto by Audrey d’Erneville] reproduced here with permission of the artist.