Apni Jagah, Zarah Hut Ke: A “Staged Ethnography” of Space and Sexuality

Abstract: The project explores the relationships between space and sexuality from ‘Queer perspective’. The tentative suggestion is that all space can be considered to be sexualised in one way or another; that the ‘sexualness’ of a space is something that we can, and considered from a Queer activist position, should, study in explorations of the politics
of space. Using the examples of trains, public parks and courts, it argues that these ‘everyday’ spaces are organised in terms of heteronormativity. The paper also examines the relevance of abstractions of space – such as ‘national’, ‘global’ and ‘local’, that are regularly brought into play in the negotiation of imaginaries of the sexual self.

Bio: Akshay spends time finding ways to transgress norms of gender and sexuality. (S)He is a founder member of Prism, a queer activist group based in Delhi. eariler a lawyer, akshay is now pursuing a PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, exploring Queer movements in India, and the emergence of sexuality as a political object in people’s movements and civil society formations.

Email: s0454533 @ sms.ed.ac.uk

Postings:

19/1/06
Hi all,
This is akshay, one of the new i-fellows. Apologies for the delay in

making this introductory posting.
I have been most excited about many of the projects that people have

described, finding resonances with my own concerns and interests and

look forward to lots of brain picking and interaction.
I am presently in the fieldwork phase of a PhD in Social Anthropology

at the University of Edinburgh. I am interested in experiences of

sexuality, the constitution of sexuality related identities, the criminalisation of desire and the ‘social life’ of law (with a special focus on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code), amongst other things.

Calling this ‘fieldwork’ feels a little strange coz this is my life, my home and the issues that I’ve been concerned with for a large part of my life. The (ever changing) focus of the PhD is presently on interactions between Queer movements and various forms of activism – people’s movements, NGOs, the HIV/AIDS sector and academia. I am looking at the uptake and re-constitution of discourses relating to sexuality in these. Looking, for example, at how people from the right to health movment articulate their concerns around sexuality, and the activisms that they engage in. Its exciting and, well, fun. I often present myself as a ‘Queer activist’, and am associated with a group in Delhi called Prism. I generally live out of a backpack, and have homes in a range of different spaces. I am queer – which means that I engage in, and am open to, a range of relationalities and sexual experiences that challenge heteronormative imaginations of the way the world should be. Now, about the project that’s being enabled by the Sarai fellowship.

The last few years have seen the emergence of a range of ‘queer friendly’ spaces in Delhi. The context of the initial emergence of these spaces is the ‘human rights approach’ to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The perfect example of this would be support groups for queer folk – the provision of ‘safe spaces’ for people like us to meet other people like us. While these spaces have been extremely significant, there is some peculiarity about the infrastructural relationship between the HIV/AIDS sector/context and queer movements. My sense is that the formation of communities is related, in a complex way, to space where this happens. My premise is that architecturally, and in terms of objects that are present, the way the space is organised, imaginaries of the boundaries of the space, and the terms of one’s presence – what is permissible and what is not, at what point is one corssing the boundary – affects, in complex ways the possibilities of interactions, reflection and self-representation. This relationship between space and community formation is recognised in queer community in Delhi. Jagah, an initiative of the Nigah Media Collective, which attempts to provide a temporal space for queer artistic representations is one example of the recognition of ‘space’ as a significant factor in the politics of sexualitry. At a more mundane level, we see that queer groups, such as Prism, choose to meet outside of NGO spaces, often in cafés, with the explicit concern of avoiding weaving themselves into the fabric of the NGO sector.

It is in this context that I intend to enable a ‘queer’ space – apni

jagah, zara hut ke.

My next post wil be more descriptive of what I imagine this space to be

like, but briefly –

I envisage this space to be one where:

– activists could drop in, talk, read, interact, watch and reflect on

representraions of queerness in mainstream movies etc. unfettered by

constraints of speaking to an ‘outside’ audience – generally a space

that is open all the time

– Queer people may engage with representations and articulations by

other queer people – where people who visit articulate for themselves

and other queer people, ideas, feelings vagera …exhibitions, painting

on walls, writing, dance and theatre performances – where people may

engage, constest, respond, add to each others representations of

‘community’, and exchange experiences.

– As a palimpsest of such queer experiences, this space could provide a

particularly warm context for interviews, group discussions and the

like focussing on biographies, framings of memories and issues of the

queer movements and constructions of the queer movement and its futures.
I guess a lot is going to happen in this space. The Sarai fellowship,

in particular enables me to focus on the processes involved in the

creation and negotiation of this space. Right from the start (looking

for a place – the experience of being thrown out by landlord because

hijras, for example, visit often, is not something new to the queer

movement) I hope to have the process of setting up the space and how it

emerges, itself, documented, with queer film makers, photographers, and

the like.
To start with, I’m going to be meeting landlords and estate agents in

different parts of Delhi, (perhaps with dictaphone in pocket) and

telling them about this plan to see how they react. Anyone who wants to

join me in this exciting endeavour, please email!
Much warmth on cold winter night,
akshay
1/3/06
dear all,
this is my second posting on my project ‘Zara hut ke’, which seeks to

enable a ‘queer space’ in Delhi. This posting is delayed due to

unavoidable (and exciting) developments in my larger research on queer

activism and the emergence of ‘sexuality’ as a political object in

urban civil society activist formations. Apologies to those who have

been waiting and have expressed an interest in reading my posting.
This posting is divided into three parts. In the first i shall examine

what it means to look at ‘space’ as a sexual category. Here i shall

raise issues that relate ‘visibility’ to discourse and about the

sexualisation of space as a political object. In the second section i

shall examine the internet as a ‘queer space’. A question that arises

is whether the internet allows for the negotiation of disembodied

abstract social relationships, or whether it is better understood as

always embedded within a specific context. In the final section i shall

briefly describe some of the issues that have come up in while looking

for a place where the queer space can be enabled.
These are tentative thoughts which I hope will raise interesting questions.
Section 1: sex and public spaces

At a recent activist meeting relating to the public interest litigation

challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (the colonial

anti-sodomy law that is the focus of much queer activism) the question

arose as to whether it would make sense for a group of queer folk – or

more precisely visibly queer folk, to descend upon the court – to

simply be present when the highest court of the land could potentially

be deciding on our terms of citizenship. Overwhelmingly, people felt

that this would be a bad idea – the strategy was to frame the case in

terms of ‘technicalities’ as we did not want the Supreme Court to take

up the substantive question of whether Section 377 is constitutionally

invalid. All we wanted was for the Supreme Court to decide that the

High Court of Delhi had been wrong in dismissing the petition on the

grounds that Section 377 affected no one in particular and thus, that

the matter raised a mere ‘academic’ question. The presence of visibly

queer folk would jeopardise such a ‘technical’ framing, and the stakes

were too high to attempt something as radical as queering the space of

the court. While there are a range of questions that arose in this

moment – about the (often illusory) distinctions between ‘substantive’

and ‘technical’/’procedural’ aspects of law, about the negotiation of

the ‘client role’ in the lawyer-client-court relationship etc., what i

want to examine here is the question – what kind of space is the court?

More precisely, how is it sexualised? A little detour here.
I remember, at this point, an incident that took place while i was

working as an student-intern in the lower courts in Delhi – an incident

that put me off the idea of working as an advocate, forever. This was a

time of the dual life for me. During the day i would dress up in a

coat, tie and the like…but the evenings were my own, and often i

would indulge myself and dress up, use make up, paint my nails, go out.

Things went smoothly as long as i maintained this image of the ‘real

man’, and i had accumulated the warmth and camaraderie of many young

lawyers, until one morning, in a hurry, i forgot to remove my

nailpolish. There i was, stuck in the midst of my colleagues, petrified

at the possibility of letting any of them see my hands. I had never

spent so much time with my hands in my pockets, or under files, or

waited for the evening so desperately. As luck would have it, i was

discovered – by my boss’s young son, who in his excitement at finding

that ‘akshay bhaiya’ was not quite ‘bhaiya’, spread the word. Soon

enough, I found myself standing in the middle of a semi-circle of my

lawyer friends, displaying my hands for all to see. The awkward silence

only ended when i left the place. For the rest of the internship i had

not a single visit from my lawyer friends, not a single conversation.

The space was closed to me. Or more accurately, that space was closed

to me as long as i did not transgress the visible imperatives of

gender. (in retrospect, i’m glad this happened – i made me find other

things to do with my law degree, and i think i’m doing pretty well for

myself).
Perhaps there is something to be said here about the peculiarly

heteronormative nature of a post-colonial judicial system. Where a

large amount of energy is spent on enforcing the ‘honour’ of the Court,

for instance, through Contempt proceedings, this ‘honour’ emerges as

that of the patriarch – the ‘real’ (heterosexual) man who metes out

justice. Codes of behaviour are, in other words, ‘terms of presence’ in

a given space. Conversely, a given space is constituted by these

implicit ‘terms of presence’. And i think the two situations i have

referred to above suggest that these ‘terms of presence’ are to be

performed and seen – i.e. It is through our continuous visible

performances/negotiations of the terms of presence that the sexual

nature of a space is maintained or shaken up.
But what is the relationship between visibility and discourse (in the

more traditional sense, i.e. negotiations articulated in language?)

What is the relationship between visible transgression of the implicit

‘terms of presence’ in a space, and discourse? The Courts provide a

particularly interesting context to examine this question as they play

the role of making entries into the formal juridical register of

citizenship. In the case of the Section 377 litigation, the message

seem to be that if we are to be considered as subjects worthy of

juridical recognition, if we are to be considered as citizens with

rights, we can only be treated as abstract, disembodied entities. Our

visible presence, apparently would be seen as an affront to the

‘dignity’ of the process through which we shall be recognised as

citizens with equal rights.
The Courts are a particular ‘public space’ where the requriements of

gender/sexuality performance are related, inter alia, to ideas of

‘dignity’ of the legal profession. Let’s consider another particular

‘public space’ – the public park.
The recent case of Operation Majnu in Meerut where the exact question

of the sexual nature of public space was the issue at the centre of a

national controversy. This was a case where where women police officers

were shown on most news channels slapping women who were found with men

in public parks. This ‘sting operation’ carried out by the moral police

backfired and we were met with the intriguing situation where Sushma

Swaraj’s words resonated with those of Brinda Karat. ‘Do our children

not have the right’, asked an inflamed Sushma in the Rajya Sabha,

‘mingle freely in public parks’? Political parties across the board

(with the exception of the Shiv Sena, of course) spoke out against the

outrage, with the National Human Rights Commission and the National

Commission for Women getting into the act as well. Interestingly, what

was being defended here was a right to privacy, or perhaps intimacy, in

a public space – which raises the question – what kind of space is the

public park?

The public park is a fascinating space. From joggers to morning

walkers, to lovers seeking a little solitude, to the everyday person

taking a brief sojourn from the drudgery of the working day, the park

is the ‘public space’ where privacy is granted to those who do not

otherwise have the luxury of a safe private space. Intimacy here is not

just accepted, but expected. Walking through a park, we avert our eyes

from sweet couplings as though honouring an unspoken contract of mutual

respect for each other’s privacy. The public park, therefore emerges as

a precious space for socialising, for relaxing, and significantly, for

romance. In other words, it was the sexualised nature of the park being

defended. If this is considered a moment where ‘public space’ was

articulated a political object, the question is – how was this

political object sexualised?

Now consider that this public space is also occupied, and constituted

by Queer folk – significantly, gay men, kothi and hijras, similarly

socialising, relaxing and romancing. A corner of the park is often a

designated ‘cruising area’. Two weeks after Operation Majnu, the police

again carried out an act of moral policing, this time a few hundred

kilometers away, in Lucknow. This time, the police claimed that they

had caught 4 gay men ‘red handed’ at a public park. While this was a

fabricated case (one man was picked up from his house, and the other

three were entrapped and arrested in a restaurant), the public park

again emerged as a sexualised political object in the media. Perhaps

not surprisingly, there was no outrage in the media, no politicians

asking questions in parliament, no NHRC enquiry. If anything, the local

press joined in the police attack on ‘gay culture’. Juxtaposing

Operation Majnu and the Lucknow incident makes me think, first, that

the articulation of space as a political object is necessarily to

engage heteronormativity, and second, that the impulse to maintain the

public park as a sexualised space in response to Operation Majnu was an

aggressive act of exclusion.
Section 2: The internet as a queer space

The Lucknow incident brought to the fore the significance of the

internet as a queer space. The men arrested had been ‘tracked down’

through their profiles on a website where gay men seek each other, and

the police framed the case as one of an ‘internet gay club’.

Now the significance of the internet to the queer community cannot be

undermined. At one level it is an essential mode of communication, and

a site for political negotiations between queer activists around the

country. E-groups provide the space for planning of activist events, as

well as larger debates and processes of strategising. In a sense, it is

on these groups that participants create their locations of speech,

their identities vis-a-vis each other. Further, it may be said that the

sense of a ‘larger community’, and of a ‘movement’ emerges from its

virtual existence. This raises a range of questions. There is sense of

a ‘queer movement’ in Delhi, that is distinct from the ‘national’,

virtual ‘queer movement’. I presume a similar situation for other

cities. How do disjunctures between these come to be manifested and

negotiated? Can we consider the internet as a queer space that simply

allows for disembodied and abstract social relations? Or should we look

at the embededness of the practices that constitute the internet as a

queer space?
At another level the internet is perhaps the most erotic space allowing

for access to pornography, fantasy and erotic encounters. The arrests

in Lucknow thus were an attack not merely on the 4 men actually taken

into custody, but on the queer community in general. For weeks after

the arrests a sense of panic circulated on e-groups, many people took

off their profiles from websites, and a heteronormative sanitisation of

communication ensued.
The tension here is perhaps one between the sense of anonymity that

allows for expression of virtual selves and (virtual?) desires, and the

sense of surveillance that creates fear. ‘We all know’, for instance,

that the police, and groups that oppose the queer movement (such as

JACK – an NGO that has opposed the 377 petition in Court) have

subscribed to lgbt_india. We also know that there is always a risk of

blackmail and police entrapment every time we meet some one new in a

chatroom. This complicates the understanding a ‘queer space’ as a ‘safe

space’.

My readings on the anthropology of the internet are limited and i would

really appreciate suggestions on how i can approach this part of my

research.
Section 3: the search for a physical space

As i had mentioned in my first posting, one of the things i intended to

do in finding a place where the ‘queer space’ cold constitute itself,

was to inform the house owners and estate agents of my intentions for

the space. The primary presumption that i intended to test here was

that people would generally be unwilling to let out their property for

the use of queer folk. In this point I must say i was taken by surprise

– with not a single overtly aggressive reaction. But more

significantly, the experience of looking for a space has opened up the

possibilities for a broader research.

The process of looking for a place is largely about negotiating the

‘safety’ of one’s identity. Most landlords and estate agents have a

(practiced) series of questions that they must ask even before showing

one the place. Most often, the first question is about one’s marital

status (are you a bachelor?) and the second is one’s credentials in the

economy (aap kahaan service karte hain?). Other questions revolved

around which part of the country i come from, whether i was

non-vegetarian, whether there would be other people living with me. And

the like. There is seemingly a matrix of questions that assess

suitability and safety of a tenant in terms of caste, religion, marital

status, position in economy, professional affiliations, habits of

consumption… It would be interesting to do some sort of mapping of

these letting practices and examine their relationship with processes

through which multiple ‘others’ are constructed, as well as how these

processes then come to be articulated in terms of demography, the

geographic distribution of ‘types’, and further, on community

formation, political processes, aesthetics and the like. It would be

interesting, further, to carry out this process out from a visibly

queer subject position. This is a larger project that i wish i had the

time for, but as of now it seems a bit too ambitious given other

commitments, responsibilities and priorities in my research. I would,

however, be thrilled if anyone were interested in doing something like

this in collaboration, which would further complicate the process

beyond my subject position and modes of self-representation.
Thus far, apart from keeping in mind these questions of letting

practices, the construction of the safe tenant and attitudes to

(sexual) queerness/otherness, i have kept in mind what i imagine as the

minimum requirements for the queer space as i envisage it, including

size, location (vis-a-vis largely south delhi based queer activism),

aesthetic possibilities and, of course, rent. Nothing that fits all

requirements has come up, and where it has, the landlord has deferred

the decision to allow the queering of the space onto others – in

response to my description of what i intend for the space (‘there will

be gay, lesbian, hijra vagera people coming here regularly for

meetings…’) i have most often come up against ‘i have no problem at

all, but i will have to ask my family’. Where the family had no

problem, the rent was too high.

I hope to be able to find a place soon and begin the process of setting

up the space.
That’s all for now. Hope this has raised some interesting issues for

discussion.
Best,
akshay
12/4/06
Hi all,
this is my third posting on my project ‘zara hut ke’, on queer space and queering spaces. Apologies again for the long silence. I am writing immediately after three significant moments, perhaps three highlights, of my year of fieldwork. One of these was a large meeting of queer activists from around the country. Another was the beginning of a dialogue between the queer movement and health activists. The third was an interesting tunr in the dialogue on sexuality in Lucknow. And although there has not been much development in terms of the queer space i want to set up in Delhi, much that has happened in these three events relates to my concern with the relationship between space, sexuality, the constitution of ‘community’, and the negotiation of identity.
Thus far, for the large part, my postings have explored ways in which spaces are sexualised. In this posting i shall look at things a little differently. Here i am concerned with the how the queer movement imagines itself spatially. the posting may come across as a ramble at times, but that’s the confused way in which things stand in my mind…
For the purpose of clarity i shall peg this posting around three ideas – the ‘local’, the ‘national’ and the ‘global’. My intention is to explore the ways in which these ideas come to be used politically, and thus to open up ways in which to examine how their parameters, or boundaries come to be re-defined in the process. As such, the question is as much what these ideas ‘do’ as it is about what they are.
The ‘local’ and the ‘national’

in earlier postings i have referred to the recent case in Lucknow where four men were arrested in a false case under section 377. even while ‘local’ groups got into action, the news reached the queer activist communities across the country through the internet. Within days a team consisting of queer activists from bangalore, bombay and baroda got together to carry out a fact-finding, the report of which was then circulated widely and used as a document for protests and press conferences in at least delhi, bombay, calcutta, bangalore, mysore. At the same time, protest was registered by ‘international’ queer and human rights groups, and by ‘local’ groups in Nepal, within days. As such, almost immediately, the case emerged as a significant rallying point for sexuality rights activism ‘locally’, at ‘national’ and ‘international’ levels. In each of these contexts, the case evoked different concerns and brought about distinct modes of political action.
Around this time i found myself in Lucknow, following up the case. One of the objectives of the visit was to check out the scope for bringing this case to have implications for queer activism at the ‘national’ level. This was seen important as the case provided an opportunity to clearly negate the government of india’s claim in the public interest litigation in the delhi high court, that Section 377 is not used against consenting adults. In other words, here was a case that would be invaluable to the ‘larger’ fight against Section 377. it was important, thus, for the ‘national’, and even the ‘international’ to make claims to the case. What i found was, of course, that things were much more complicated.

First, was the question of whether the men who had been arrested would be willing to lend their experience to activism, the the ‘larger cause’… Having faced a concerted attack by the media, and having been ‘outed’, lost jobs and having faced resistance from their communities and families, they were understandably hesitant to bring the gaze of the media back on themselves. Second, one of the Lucknow based NGOs, that has faced persecution at the hands of the Lucknow police in the past had good reason to believe that the police were attempting to use this case to entrap them yet again. And significantly, the only way in which the men who had been arrested were contactable, was through this NGO – it being the only recognisable queer group that was offering them services and support in this moment of crisis. Other ‘local’ groups looked at the case as a reflection of a failure to carry out activism around sexuality ‘locally’. A longer process of dialogue on sexuality, marginalisation and rights was seen as the next point of action. As such it was clear that in order for the case to become a point of ‘national’ level activism, there needed to be a series of difficult and complex negotiations with the local political materiality.
The response of the queer movement to a homophobic murder is Shillong further articulated the complexity of the disjuncture between the ‘local’ political materiality and the ‘national’ struggle against marginalisation on the basis of sexuality/gender non-conformity. Soon after the news of the murder was posted on an e-group (interestingly, by an australian HIV/AIDS activist who has done some work in the north-east of india) the question was whether another fact-finding team should be brought together. The immediate response of a large number of people, especially those who have worked in meghalaya in the past, was that this was that we do not know enough about the reality of being queer in the area. Discussions with civil society activists from Shillong further brought about a sense of hesitation. The area where the murder took place, it was suggested, is a hotbed of a particular ‘chauvanism’ where the requirement of the gender performance is the basis for much harassment of those who do not fit the (locally constituted) idea of ‘masculinity’. At the same time it became clear that there is a substantial queer community in the area that is engaged in some amount of activism and community building. It was also suggested that there is a class disjuncture between this community of activists and the queer folk in the particular neighbourhood where the murder took place. In short, there was a recognition of a series of complex negotiations of queerness in the area that the ‘national’ movement was yet to understand. The political viability of a fact-finding was thus brought into question.
There was something very interesting about the discussions around possible actions in the Shillong case. Activists from Shillong had suggested that the most significant problem in attempting a fact-finding would be that a ‘national’ team would visibly by a group of ‘outsiders’ – this fact again needed to be seen in the context of ‘local’ politics of self-determination and identity. First, ‘we’ outsiders would have difficulty in getting information, in collecting ‘facts’. Second, a group of ‘outsiders’ coming ‘in’ could raise problems for local queer folk. This issue came to be articulated as a question of the politics of location – an ‘insider-outsider’ dichotomy. This raised a significant question. even if we are ‘outsiders’ in terms of ‘ethnicity’, we are ‘insiders’ in terms of being queer. And those facing threats, while being ‘insiders’ in terms of ethnicity, are marginalised on the basis of their sexuality/gender non-conformity. The politics of location was thus partially ‘dislocated’ from its grounding in geography and ethnicity, bringing an articulation of the multiplicity of processes of identification and of marginalisation.
What is most interesting to me in these two situations is that the relationship between the spatial categories of the ‘local’ and the ‘national’, and of the questions of identity, came to be framed in ethical terms – is it ethically sound for ‘us’ to attempt to articulate these cases as examples of the complex ‘social life’ of Section 377, and of violence against queer folk, when so clearly, the local political dynamic did not allow for such action? And from a different perspective, was it right for us to hesitate in intervening in situations of violence against people like us, on the basis that we stood outside the ‘local’ dynamic?
the sense of frustration in these cases was tangible and significant. Consider the fact that the high court of delhi rejected the petition on the grounds that no one was ‘affected’ by the provision, that it was an ‘academic question’ – basically that the ways in which the impact of the provision was articulated in the petition did not fit the boundaries of the the idea of ‘victimhood’, or perhaps, the idea of the ‘worthy victim’. We are thus constantly pressed to prove that we are ‘victims’ of the law – this in terms of arrests and ‘human rights violations’ as they are articulated in Supreme Court judgments. The case in Lucknow articulates the problem of Section 377 in a manner that the courts cannot ignore, where we do not need to put the effort into proving that the socio-cultural affects of the provision do in fact amount to human rights violations, and we can’t do activism around the case or bring it to bear on the legal contestations because the ‘local’ is not ready. Similarly, the case in Shillong is one that places beyond doubt that ‘homophobia’ is a reality that queer folk have to constantly negotiate. And perhaps more significantly, the sense of frustration in not being able to provide an effective response, or at least tangible support to queer folk facing violence.
A significant outcome of these cases has been that they have given rise to a series of discussions on the creation of ‘national networks’ that could more effectively respond to cases of violence, displacement and marginalisation on the basis of sexuality and gender non-conformity. The question, perhaps, is as much about creating mechanisms of representation – whereby, a ‘national network’ could speak of, for and to ‘local’ realities, as it is about creating mechanisms of effective response. In other words, these cases have given rise to reflexive practices where identity and sense of self and community are mediated, in part, by spatial imaginaries.
The ‘global’ and the ‘national’

a similar, yet significantly distinct situation comes to be in the context of the idea of the ‘global’. Let me explain.

the most commonly voiced objection to social movements concerned with sexuality, and with same-sex desire in particular is that they talk of something ‘western’, something apparently alien to ‘Indian culture’. This has in the past been the basis for violent attacks carried out by the hindu right-wing, (for example, when the Shiv Sena attacked theatres screening the film Fire). It has also been the basis on which, earlier the NDA government, and more recently, the UPA government have refused to accept that Section 377 violates basic fundamental rights granted to all citizens by the Constitution. The argument is that ‘Indian society does not approve of homosexuality’, and therefore, that ‘these people’ cannot be given basic rights of equality, life and freedom of expression. That is to say, our claims to rights, to ‘citizenship’ have had to engage and contest a nationalist imaginary of the ‘indian self’. And this contestation is not limited to the upper-caste hindu-nationalist network. For the longest time, this has been a significant aspect of the discursive context within which we have engaged left-leaning groups and the women’s movement.

This is perhaps the reason why we tread carefully in moments of self-representation – be it with the media, or at events we organise. An interesting discussion took place, for instance, when we were exploring possible events around the visit of a European law professor. The question was whether he could be called upon to be a part of a panel at a jan sunwai. The question was this – given that this would be public event where we were calling upon a group of ‘experts’ to comment on the validity of Section 377, would it prudent for us to have a non-Indian, western face on the panel. One of the arguments that i found most compelling at this juncture was exactly that even if this person was not ‘Indian’, he was gay – why were we prioritising one identity over another and were we not playing into exactly that obsession with the ‘nation’? And should we not be instead pointing out the hypocrisy of surrendering control over the economy to the US government and the WTO while arguing against ‘homosexuality as a western evil’?
This opens up a series of questions – To what extent does an identification with histories of the gay rights movement in Europe and America – critical events such as the Stonewall riots, for example, i.e., a claim to a global form, enable certain imaginaries of individual and collective ‘selves’ in urban India? In other words, how do aspects of ‘globalness’ enable/regulate articulation of forms, and conversely, how is ‘globalness’ itself articulated in the emergence of forms? And how does ‘globalness’ engage and contest other aspects of the ‘form’ – the regional, the ethnic, the linguistic, gender, caste, religion…?
this speaks to a range of concerns in the study of post-coloniality. And this is one direction that my future research shall focus on.
Hope this has been interesting and will raise questions.
until next time, then
akshay

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