’It’s a Silent Trade’: Female Same-Sex Intimacies in Postcolonial Ghana

Dankwa, Serena Owusua (2009). ’It’s a Silent Trade’: Female Same-Sex Intimacies in Postcolonial Ghana. Nora: Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, 17(3), pp. 192-205. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/08038740903117208

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While in many places same-sex cultures revolve around politically charged subcultural understandings, this paper explores conceptualizations of female same-sex desire beyond constructions of lesbian identity. It looks at a set of practices forged by women who are involved in intimate same-sex relationships in southern Ghana and examines how their self-understandings resist and intersect with the derogatory media representations that frame them. A key term to these representations is the term supi. It implies a close friendship between two adolescent girls, whether or not their relationship has a sexual dimension. In spite of rising tides of homophobia that impact such female intimacies, two factors still allow for the creation of niches for same-sex intimacy: first, southern Ghanaian cultures draw on norms of verbal indirection and discretion, which allow for the concealment of non-normative sexual conduct. Secondly, homosocial spaces of intimacy provide an environment in which female same-sex bonds are expressed through a language of allusion rather than a specialist, subcultural vocabulary. Erotic context is formed through practice and performance and is not discursively named or understood as a social identity. Rather, these understandings of female same-sex passions revolve around the notion of secrecy and are based on tacit but vibrant forms of knowledge.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Dankwa, Serena Owusua


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Taylor & Francis




Anja Julienne Wohlgemuth

Date Deposited:

12 May 2020 08:23

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:37

Publisher DOI:






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