Talk by Srila Roy (University of Witwatersrand), chaired by Dina Siddiqi ((BRAC University, Anthropology)
This talk provides a glimpse into queerness as a way of life in contemporary Kolkata, India. It looks at the manner in which young metropolitan self-identified queer individuals are transforming their selves and modes of living: through somatic practices (like sex change) to the invention of alternative modes of kinship and belonging, both within and outside of the heteropatriarchal family. No longer hidden or erased, their narratives bespeak the development of a ‘homosexual way of life’ (Foucault) and the expansion – via the resources of India’s liberalisation and transnational discourses of human and sexual rights– of community formation and subcultural development, especially for urban queer women. The ethico-political implications of such a homosexual ascesis are, however, ambiguous insofar as technologies of the queer self can be invested in the production of respectability. This should come as no surprise once we consider the extent to which the maintenance if not reinforcement of class-based hierarchies invariably constitutes the conditions for queer recognition in India today.
Srila Roy is Associate Professor in Sociology at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. She is the author of Remembering Revolution: Gender, Violence and Subjectivity in India’s Naxalbari Movement, editor of New South Asian Feminisms, and co-editor of New Subaltern Politics: Reconceptualising Hegemony and Resistance in Contemporary India. She is currently writing a book on feminist politics in liberalized India. Srila is also an Editor of the journal, Feminist Theory.
Dina M. Siddiqi divides her time between New York and Dhaka, where she is Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Economics and Socials Sciences, BRAC University. Her publications, grounded in the study of Bangladesh, cover a broad spectrum: the global garment industry; gender justice and non-state dispute resolution systems, and the intersections of Islam, nationalism and feminist cultural politics. Siddiqi is on the editorial board of Routledge’s Women in Asia Publication Series, a member of the South Asia Council of the Association of Asian Studies (AAS), and on the Gender Advisory Council of the Lahore School of Management Sciences (LUMS). She is also part of the Advisory Council of the South Asian Network of Gender Activists and Trainers (SANGAT). She is currently a fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Difference (CSSD) at Columbia University.
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