A Postmaterialist Explanation for Homophobia in Africa: Multilevel Analysis of Attitudes Towards Homosexuals in 33 African Countries

Masters project: Ruben Berge Mathisen (Comparative Politics, UiB), submitted 2018

This thesis advances a modified version of Inglehart’s Postmaterialist thesis as an explanation for homophobia in Africa. My argument is that economic development substantially contributes to creating a Postmaterialist public culture – part of which is tolerance for homosexuality – when triggering three mechanisms: a) Increasing general living standard, b) spreading public education and c) moving demand for labor away from agriculture and industry towards the service sector. In the absence of sufficient economic development, or alternatively if economic development does not trigger these key mechanisms, homophobia is likely to persist. The mechanisms are unlikely to be triggered in natural resource dependent countries due to the resource curse. Putting this argument to the test, the thesis uses multilevel modeling and mediation analysis on an original dataset consisting of Afrobarometer survey data for 33 African countries (N=47.821) as well as a number of country-level variables. The analysis in complimented with a smaller analysis of World Value Survey data for seven countries over time. The Postmaterialist explanation of homophobia is compared with two alternative explanations of homophobia in Africa: The colonial-era laws that criminalize same-sex intimacy, and religion. The results give substantial support to the theoretical argument presented and the explanation is of comparable importance and robustness to the dominant explanations in the literature. The finding has profound implications for theory and policy. First and foremost by showing that homophobia in Africa is maintained by deep-seated material conditions. This seems to indicate that external pressure on African states to end anti-gay policies and rhetoric is unlikely to work in the absence of economic development. But also by locating the resource curse as a key obstacle for realizing the tolerance-promoting effects of economic development.

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