Empires of Intolerance: Colonial Legacies and Attitudes Toward Homosexuality in the Global South

Presenters: Taylor C. Boas, Professor, Department of Political Science and Caden Browne, PhD Student, Department of Political Science


Abstract: Public opinion toward gay and lesbian people and related policy issues varies widely across the Global South. In some countries, large majorities express tolerant opinions, whereas in many others, homophobia is widespread. The predominant explanation for cross-national variation in attitudes toward homosexuality concerns levels of economic development. In contrast, this paper considers a heretofore neglected factor: colonial heritage. Examining Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean, we show that former British colonies consistently express more intolerance of homosexuality than would be expected based on their national wealth, whereas former Spanish and Portuguese countries are more tolerant. We consider two possible mechanisms for the effect of colonial heritage on present-day attitudes: the (de)criminalization of sodomy, which affects the likelihood of contact with openly gay and lesbian people, and a country’s religious composition and religiosity. Based on multi-level analysis of the Afrobarometer and AmericasBarometer surveys, the paper will test the explanatory power of colonial heritage versus other more conventional explanations for attitudes toward homosexuality in the Global South.

Reading the paper in advance is required for attendance. In order to receive the paper, please register for this workshop.


Time: Friday, March 29, noon-1:30 PM

Location:Pardee School of Global Studies, 154 Bay State Road, 2nd floor (Eilts Room)


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