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An Exploratory Journey of Cultural Visual Literacy of “Non-Conforming” Gender Representations from Pre-Colonial Sub- Saharan Africa

Bharat Mehra
  • Corresponding author
  • Professor & EBSCO Endowed Chair in Social Justice, School of Library and Information Studies, University of AlabamaTuscaloosa
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  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Paul A. Lemieux III
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information, Department of CommerceAsheville
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  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Keri Stophel
Published Online: 2019-04-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opis-2019-0001


This article is an exploratory journey of cultural visual literacy of “non-conforming” gender representations from pre-colonial Sub-Saharan Africa. It provides select research-based visual evidence of “non-conforming” genders and sexual orientations in traditional cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa as represented in its popular press, scholarly literature, and government and United Nations publications, amongst other sources. These have been selectively described in the context of key cultural themes that include (alphabetically listed): art, folklore, gender behavior, language, marriage, religion, and, sexual activity. The article provides a glimpse of data that were collected during a collaborative project selected by the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy to partner in the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomacy Lab program of engaged scholarship involving two information science graduate students and a faculty member. A few insights from the exploratory journey of the cultural visual literacy of “non-conforming” gender representations are also reported.

Keywords: “non-conforming” gender representations; pre-colonial; Sub-Saharan Africa


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About the article

Received: 2018-11-26

Accepted: 2019-01-15

Published Online: 2019-04-01

Published in Print: 2019-01-01

Citation Information: Open Information Science, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 1–21, ISSN (Online) 2451-1781, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opis-2019-0001.

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© 2019 Bharat Mehra et al., published by De Gruyter Open. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

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