Embodied Belongings: Exploring the Politics of ‘Queer’ in South Asia

Schedule

Thursday, October 5
500 Hall of Languages

7 pm         Vivek Shraya Performance
                 Multidisciplinary South Asian artist Vivek Shraya will show and discuss a range of her work -- literature, song and film -- to highlight the complex relationship between belonging and the body itself.  Her work consistently tackles what it means to    belong (and not belong) in relation to family, religion, community spaces, queerness and transness.
 

Friday, October 6
500 Hall of Languages

8:45-9:00       Coffee/light breakfast

9:00-9:15       Welcome and Introductions by Carol Babiracki, Director of the Syracuse University South Asia Center


9:15-10:30     Keynote Address

Gayatri Reddy (University of Illinois, Chicago), "With Respect to Sex, Revisited"

Lucinda Ramberg (Cornell), Discussant

10:30-10:45   Coffee Break

10:45-12:30   Graduate Panel:  On the Cutting Edge

Susan S. Wadley (Syracuse), Chair

Shakthi Nataraj (UC Berkeley), “A good laugh, and a life cut short: “Koti” as a space of memory, poignancy and ethical crossroads”

Uzma Zafar (University of Virginia), "Spirals of Self: Gender, Vision and Autoethnography in  South Asia"

Sreyoshi Dey (Syracuse), “Exploring the role of social media groups among the LGBTQ community in India"

Jayaprakash Mishra (IIT Hyderabad) , "Understanding Desire, Marriage and Family: A Qualitative Study of Gay Men in Odisha, India"

Kwame Otu (University of Virginia), Discussant

 

12:30-1:30     Lunch

 

1:30-3:15      Social Contours of Queer Belonging

Ann G. Gold (Syracuse), Chair

Jyoti Puri (Simmons College), “Juxtaposing ‘Antipolice’ Rhetorics: Policing, Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Southern Contexts”

Faris Khan (SUNY Potsdam), “Khwaja sira Activists, the State, and Sex/Gender Regulation in Pakistan”

Svati Shah (UMass Amherst),Gender Identity, Sexuality and Sedition in India: Queer and Transgender Politics in 'Anti-National' Times”

Himika Bhattacharya (Syracuse), Discussant

 

3:15-3:30       Coffee Break

 

3:30-5:00       Queering Art and Literature

Geraldine Forbes (SUNY Oswego), Chair

Kareem Khubchandani (Tufts), “Un-koothu dance: choreographing region, class, and caste at Koothnytz”

Nisha Kommattam (University of Chicago), " Literature, still: Textualities of belonging in South India and beyond"

Natasha Bissonauth (Haverford College), “Sunil Gupta's Sun City: An Exercise in Camping Orientalism”

Durba Ghosh (Cornell University), Discussant

 

5:00-5:30       Discussion

 

5:30-6:15       Reception

 

6:30              Reading by Shyam Selvadurai

         





























Shakthi Nataraj (UC Berkeley), “A good laugh, and a life cut short: “Koti” as a space of memory, poignancy and ethical crossroads”

Koti is a pan-Indian term referring to a male-born person that identifies as female or gender-fluid without electing to undergo surgical transition. It has often been translated by HIV/AIDS prevention discourses as  “Men who have Sex with Men” (MSM), and anthropologists have rightly criticized this gesture as a category mistake and a reduction of people’s sexual identity. Yet I want to suggest that sexual identity might not be what is at stake when using the term koti. Analying a koti-authored short story as it was debated by a reading group of koti-identified HIV/AIDS activists, I show that as the texts unfolded in real-time, koti came alive between us in the room as a sign with radically indeterminate meanings and affects. In the discussions that followed, it was not necessarily sexual identity that was at stake, but disparate concerns ranging from nostalgia for the early days of HIV/AIDS organizing, to the changing economy of Chennai in the context of neoliberalism. I argue that instead of treating sexual identity as our object of analysis, and informants’ narratives as testimony, figures such as koti condense thick, long-reaching histories that congeal and dissipate in volatile and unpredictable ways. Return to Top


Sreyoshi Dey (Syracuse), “Exploring the role of social media groups among the LGBTQ community in India"

India has emerged as one of the top consumers of the World Wide Web, despite the lack of access both geographically and economically. At the same time, the country has also been witnessing a wave of change as conversations surrounding non-normative gender and sexuality is on the rise. This mixed methods research endeavors to explore the possibility that communication over social networking sites holds for the queer community of India, particularly in terms of identity construction.


Jayaprakash Mishra (IIT Hyderabad) , "Understanding Desire, Marriage and Family: A Qualitative Study of Gay Men in Odisha, India"

Drawing on interviews of thirty-two gay men in Odisha, India, this paper seeks to examine their experiences of negotiation with the institution of marriage and family. It will foreground the experiences of married and unmarried gay men struggling to navigate between their sexual orientation and social institutions that compel them to adhere to heterosexual conformity. This paper will also locate homo-romantic experiences in their lives which have been overtly sexualized in the public discourses produced by hetero-normative society.

Jyoti Puri (Simmons College), “Juxtaposing ‘Antipolice’ Rhetorics: Policing, Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Southern Contexts”

Foregrounding constabularies’ accusations that Hijras in Delhi are “antipolice,” this presentation explores similar police claims about African American communities in Ferguson. Using juxtaposition in place of comparative approaches, the presentation examines what police narratives reveal about the regulation of subaltern communities in the global South. It shows how each case usefully supplements the other, deepening analyses of the sexualized, racialized, gendered, and affective ways in which law and its limits are continually produced through policing. Return to Top


Faris Khan (SUNY Potsdam), “Khwaja sira Activists, the State, and Sex/Gender Regulation in Pakistan”

Between 2009-12, the Pakistani Supreme Court granted rights to a category of gender non-conforming and sexually non-normative citizens now commonly known as the khwaja sira. The activities surrounding the Court’s deliberations highlight the term’s complicated journey of being institutionalized for legal and regulatory purposes. By focusing on the appropriation of “khwaja sira” in activist and state domains, this paper considers the role of various social actors in the production and perpetuation of ambiguity. Return to Top


Svati Shah (UMass Amherst),Gender Identity, Sexuality and Sedition in India: Queer and Transgender Politics in 'Anti-National' Times”

As the charge of ‘anti-nationalism’ is deployed against any form of dissent in a number of national contexts, the right to exist as a gay, lesbian, queer and/or transgender citizen has gained normative currency. This talk reviews the tensions between the rise of the charge of ‘anti-nationalism’ in India, especially with respect to any form of dissent against the state’s efforts to occupy or acquire land, alongside the heightened visibility of LGBTQ people and politics throughout the country. Rendering the recent history of these two discourses together, both of which have been the subject of intense public debate, the talk attempts less to argue that they are mutual constitutive than to suggest that rendering them within the same analytic frame reveals, again, the ways in which the stakes of sexuality and gender politics have constituted questions of nation and of dissent. Return to Top


Kareem Khubchandani (Tufts), “Un-koothu dance: choreographing region, class, and caste at Koothnytz”

The sporadic queer party “Koothnytz” in Bangalore invites patrons to “lose your couth,” to refuse respectability by dancing to dappankoothu, a style associated with dalit communities. Tracing the itineraries of dappankoothu from dalit public performance, to Tamil film, to nightclubs, I argue that Koothnytz provides an important expression of regional queer sexuality that is otherwise policed in Bangalore’s bar spaces. Alternatively, I show how pleasure is based on the absence of dalit communities that originate the form.

 

Nisha Kommattam (University of Chicago), " Literature, still: Textualities of belonging in South India and beyond"

This paper examines the continued, if contested, importance of literary texts in expressing modes of queerness and (fragmented) belonging today. Drawing on the recent work of writers in English, Malayalam, and Tamil, I interrogate the form and function of literary representations of Other-ness. Although from diverse literary economies, texts such as Arundhati Roy’s new novel The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017) and the provocative poetry of Leena Manimekalai and Anitha Thambi, are interconnected in their depiction of transgressive embodiments that are rooted in the local and particular. I suggest that the questions of becoming and belonging articulated by and within these texts illuminate the political power that literature can still hold today.



Natasha Bissonauth (Haverford College), “Sunil Gupta's Sun City: An Exercise in Camping Orientalism”

Through camp posturing and Technicolor, London-based photographer, Sunil Gupta’s most recent photo series, Sun City (2010), narrates a gay Indian immigrant character’s hedonistic sauntering through a Parisian bathhouse. Upon defining “camping orientalism” I analyze Sun City’s 2010 reception in Paris and connect the series to a tradition of orientalist homoerotic imagery. Ultimately, I argue that while the Sun Citys celebration of sexual freedom is vibrant, the series’ reception has been more hesitant to consider the racial codedness of that “freedom.” Return to Top