In 2022, Ruth Ramsden-Karelse completed her DPhil in English at the University of Oxford, where she held the inaugural Stuart Hall Doctoral Studentship, in association with Merton College, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the Stuart Hall Foundation, as well as a Merton College Graduate Prize Scholarship. Centring on South African communities that were classified ‘Coloured’ under apartheid, Ramsden-Karelse’s doctoral research maps the worldmaking work of self-described gays and girls, from 1950 to the present, with a specific focus on the depictions of Cape Town’s lost District Six seen in the GALA Queer Archive’s Kewpie Photographic Collection.

Ruth Ramsden-Karelse founded and co-convened the Oxford Queer Studies Network and has acted as Postgraduate Representative for the Spaces, Sexualities, and Queer Research Group of the Royal Geographical Society. Since September 2020, she has been a Research Associate at the University of Manchester’s Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity. Her writing has appeared in publications including GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies and has been co-awarded the Queer African Studies Association Prize for Best Published Essay by a Graduate Student.

Making Gay Worlds in South Africa’s Western Cape
ICI Project 2022-24

While gender and sexual diversities in South Africa have been historically circumscribed, attendant constraints on possibility have been contested by multiply marginalized subjects, who have laboured to remake the world they inherit, contesting existing configurations of the social and modelling new possible worlds. This project has three parts, whose interdisciplinarity is rooted in a methodological approach remaining attentive to the needs of the subject matter.

First, a genealogical analysis of the customarily pejorative Southern African word moffie, considering its late nineteenth-century emergence as a category of abnormality and mid twentieth-century circulation as a distinct social class. Second, a theory-practice of worldmaking drawn from the work of self-described gays and girls to remodel the organization of social relations implied by these scenes. Third, a map of possibilities for liveability enabled by the continued circulation of the materials in which this work of worldmaking is accessible to us.