Rethinking publics and participation in a digital era: a case study of HOLAA! and African queer women?s digital interactions

28 May 2019

Feminist thinking and organising is being altered through digital spaces, as these spaces increasingly allow for greater participation of women andmarginalised identities in the public sphere. The digital environmentmakes it possible for voices that may not have been present in the public sphere prior to the existence of social networking sites to be heard and viewed publicly (Goby, 2003). It also allows for individuals to be exposed to viewpoints that are not their own and to be held accountable for the values they espouse, aswell as to have these challenged publicly. This ultimately allows for a richer and more complex public sphere, and for opportunities to construct counter-publics and counterdiscourses (McLean, 2013, 2014; Nip, 2004). McLean and Mugo (2015) hold that the richness and complexity of this public sphere can be considered to be more reflective of lived realities and nuanced relationships of power than earlier conceptions of the public sphere. This article will speak specifically to the experiences of the queer African woman, and here ?participation? is inclusive of the sharing of lived experiences, decision making, organising and advocacy, public dialogue, and policy changes. Writing as a previous editor and curator of the Pan-African queer online space HOLAA!, and taking this space as a point of departure, the possibilities presented by digital spaces for feminist thinking and organising are explored. The possibility for adding to global narratives is considered, and how digital communities impact on and alter feminist participation, resulting in the formation of rich feminist publics and counter-publics is discussed.