Current Sociology

Sociologist of the Month, January 2024

Please welcome our Sociologists of the Month for January 2024, Leon Freude (University of Barcelona, Spain) and Matthew Waites (University of Glasgow, UK). Their article for Current Sociology Analysing homophobia, xenophobia and sexual nationalisms in Africa: Comparing quantitative attitudes data to reveal societal differences is Open Access.

Leon Freude

Matthew Waites

Could you please tell us about yourself? How did you come to your field of study?

L. Freude: When I wrote the article together with Matthew, I was a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Barcelona. I come from a Bachelor in Sociology and did a Master in Gender Studies. Now I am a Postdoctoral researcher in the Gender and Inequalities Research Group, based in the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, with Maria Rodó de Zárate ( My PhD was about the articulation of racism or xenophobia and homophobia, trying to approach the concept homonationalism quantitatively with surveys. I came to the concept homonationalism from leftist queer-feminist activism in Germany first and later in Barcelona, considering its use by Jasbir Puar and others. On the other hand, my sociology Bachelor degree led me to developing engagement with quantitative methods and I noticed that the research on homonationalism has not been based a lot on surveys. So there was an important gap to fill.

M. Waites: I have been working in the Sociology subject group at the University of Glasgow, where I am Reader in Sociology (webpage: Since about 2009 I’ve been researching global queer politics, especially the contestation of human rights with respect to ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ through engaging international political sociology and the sociology of human rights. I’ve worked on how this relates to colonialism, especially the British Empire’s criminalisation of same-sex sexual acts that has left wide colonial legacies in the present, for example in the 2013 volume Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change, co-edited with Corinne Lennox (published open access by School of Advanced Study, University of London: Through such work I co-organised conferences and seminars, involving African LGBTQ+ activists such as from Sexual Minorities Uganda. From 2019-2020 I worked with African LGBT+ activists including Coalition of African Lesbians and African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR)—and other partners such as Kaleidoscope Trust—on the first phase of a planned project Strong in Diversity Bold on Inclusion, initially funded by the UK’s (then) Department for International Development to address LGBT+ inclusion in several African countries (though funding was later withdrawn). I’ve also co-authored some publications with LGBTQ+ activist Monica Tabengwa, from Botswana. Hence while I have researched and published on transnational processes in relation to several regions, including India and the Caribbean (as in a 2019 article in International Sociology, another journal of the International Sociological Association:, sub-Saharan Africa became a major focus of my work.

What prompted you to research the area of your article, “Analysing homophobia, xenophobia and sexual nationalisms in Africa: Comparing quantitative attitudes data to reveal societal differences”?

L. Freude: I met Matthew during the European Sociological Association (ESA) conference in Manchester in 2019 during the ESA Research Network 23 – Sexuality stream meetings. We presented in the same opening session. I was really interested in his work on de-/postcolonialism, sexuality and human rights. And I think he was interested in my work. From an explorative data analysis of World Values Survey data, I found a surprising constellation concerning the relationship between negative attitudes to homosexuality and nationalist attitudes in some sub-Saharan countries. I then wrote to Matthew, asking if he could help me to give sense to these numbers with his rich theoretical and contextual knowledge on sexuality in sub-Saharan countries. He signalled interest and put a lot of effort to help me to get a grant to work with him at University of Glasgow, and did almost all the theoretical background and literature review. And I learned a lot from him and I am eager to learn much more.

M. Waites: When I met Leon Freude on an ESA conference panel, it became apparent that this was someone talented, with an original research agenda that uniquely brings together the conversation about homonationalism with quantitative analysis of social attitudes. Given the great urgency of addressing homophobia in specific African contexts, which is already suggested in many studies using qualitative research methods, there was scope for us to work productively on that, together. The Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014 in Uganda (prior to the new Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023) had exemplified extremes of homophobia, often highlighted in western media, but we could see it was important for academic analysis to map the breadth, diversity and complexity of different social attitudes to same-sex or same-gender sexualities across various societies in the African continent. I had recently led a literature review for another project addressing LGBT+ inclusion in certain African countries, in collaboration with African activists, and based on this felt able to provide an appropriate literature review (sufficient within the constrained space of a single article) to support us doing some quantitative analysis of social attitudes in specific countries.

What do you see as the key findings of your article?

L. Freude: The article presents a novel analysis of quantitative data on homophobia in Africa from Afrobarometer Round 7, comparing attitudes across states and examining changes over time. It explores the relationship between homophobia and xenophobia, suggesting while positive attitudes toward immigrants do not always align with positive attitudes toward homosexuals, that where positive attitudes to homosexuals exist there are also positive attitudes to immigration, and that this is worthy of reflection as a potential source of insight. Crucially we do not claim to generate any findings directly from the data alone, but rather it is only through reading the data and data-analysis findings in conjunction with existing literature on the contexts—especially Mozambique—that analytical insights are generated. The article emphasizes the importance of researching sexual nationalisms in Africa, highlighting the need for contextual conceptualization. While introducing quantitative data into postcolonial sexuality studies is a strength, challenges include reliance on secondary data and the call for more nuanced quantitative studies addressing sexual diversity in local contexts. The article aims to stimulate further investigation into distinctive forms of sexual nationalism in different regions of Africa.

M. Waites: The article especially suggests that different histories of colonialism and decolonization related to the British, French and Portuguese empires might play a role in shaping contemporary attitudes towards homosexuality. The analysis thus compliments other research analysis that I have published with Gustavo Gomes da Costa Santos, comparing Kenya as a former British colony with Mozambique as a former Portuguese colony—as cited in the Current Sociology article. More inclusive and neutral or positive attitudes towards homosexuals in Mozambique compared to negative attitudes in other countries—Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya and Zambia—suggest that Portuguese colonialism may have been less effective in sharing homophobia through Christian schooling, and/or that the post-decolonization socialist government of Frelimo had an anti-clericalism which may have limited homophobia.

What are the wider social implications of your research in the current social climate? How do you think things will change in the future?

L. Freude: First of all, my research addresses very serious problems such as racism and homophobia. Problems, which need monitoring because they affect our lives in a very serious way and in their extreme threaten life itself. Additionally, I keep an eye on the articulation of both ideologies of inequality and structures of power, as this relation might be changing. From an intersectional and activist stance, I hope that both structures and ideologies can be resisted together. My PhD includes data analysis from 1990 till 2018. In this data I observe that in most European and Latin American countries, racism and homophobia go hand in hand, as well as resistance to them. However, I do observe a certain disjunction and updated data analysis is needed to examine and compare whether this disjunction is deepened recently.

M. Waites: There seem to be new patterns of change in laws and social attitudes related to LGBT+ in Africa, with distinct patterns in different parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There seems a new wave of homophobia affecting political debate and legislative proposals in west and east Africa, in countries such as Ghana and Kenya. On the other hand there are signs of improvement in southern Africa in countries, with decriminalisations of same-sex acts and other legislative improvements in countries like Botswana, Mauritius and Angola. So, our article in Current Sociology offers a contribution to research on homophobia in Africa that is dis-aggregating contexts, to see sub-regional and national specificities.

Do you have any links to images, documents or other pieces of research which build on or add to the article? Or a suggested reading list?

M. Waites: Two open access volumes to which I have contributed, with discussion of LGBTQ+ inclusion and politics across international contexts including in African countries are:

Matthew Waites full publications list and links to various lecture videos and resources, via webpage at University of Glasgow: