ISHQ Symposium | Panel Discussion & Performance

Last in the ISHQ series for this year, the Centre for Studies in Gender and Sexuality presents to you a symposium that marks the completion of its first year of activity. It includes a panel discussion with: Anjali Gopalan, Founder & Executive Director of the Naz Foundation; Geetal Patel, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at University of Virginia; Madhavi Menon, Director of the CSGS & Professor of English at Ashoka University; and Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate at the Supreme Court of India. With the curative petition against 377 due for hearing in the Supreme Court and keeping in mind the current socio-political climate in the country,

the discussion will think about the significance of this juncture for queer politics in India, challenges in winning this legal battle, and possibilities for the queer movement ahead.
The panel discussion will be followed by a powerful performance by Mallika Taneja – “Thoda Dhyaan Se”, her solo act on the issue of women’s safety and the idea of “appropriate” dressing for women.

Mary E. John | Uniform Civil Code & Indian Feminism

This presentation will examine the historical trajectories of how communities in the Indian context came to be uniquely identified in the struggle over women from the colonial period to the present. The story of the twists and turns of women’s agonistic relation to culture has been recursively deepened in terms of women’s possible rights within and beyond religious communities, or to put it more strongly, the story of women and culture is today practically coterminous with the trajectories of religiously defined communities and their respective patriarchies. Not only is there no equivalent pressure to bring caste in the picture, but questions of caste have entailed radically different conceptualisations of community. The diverging trajectories of caste and religious community become more evident in the course of the twentieth century, during the time when women’s organisations took on the tasks of social reform and sought, among other agendas, to intervene in, if not overcome the codification and reform of personal law, in favour of a uniform civil code.

The thinking of someone like B.R. Ambedkar in his efforts to establish a transformed Hindu Code for the new nation in the realm of personal law, one that would not only be gender just but play its part in the annihilation of caste, has only quite recently been recovered in mainstream scholarship. If feminists have been somewhat better able to locate the crisis experienced by Muslim women caught in the crosshairs or intersections of secular nationalism, default Hindu majoritarianism and an embattled minority culture, the legacy of anti-caste movements for thinking about culture as communities remains far less clear.

Sandip Roy | Don’t Let Him Know

With Section 377 back in the news, the visibility of LGBT issues in the Indian media has come out of the closet—or should we say almirah? Yet the community is still called a “minuscule minority” because the issue remains shrouded in stigma and secrecy. As a journalist who has had the privilege of reporting from inside and outside the movement, from India and the USA, Sandip Roy will trace the ups and downs of a personal journey, through The Great Gay Taboo, to the love that dare not speak its name, to the big fat gay wedding. As a writer, he also tackles the ever-knotty question of whether you can create a queer character without the burden of representation of all queerdom.

Pramada Menon | “A Rush of Blood to the Heart: Sexuality, Desire and Changing Times”

Love, lust, hookups, Grindr, Tinder, identity, marriage, the alphabet soup, class, caste, corporate, donors, sex work, fundamentalisms – an ever growing list of words that weave their way into sexualities and how we talk about them. Has anything changed, have we changed, what do we want and how fluid can we be?

Urvashi Butalia | Mona: A sort of life/A life of Sorts

Urvashi Butalia will be speaking about her many-year old friendship with Mona Ahmed, a hijra who lives in a graveyard cum madrassa compound in Delhi, and with whom she began work a little over fifteen years ago, on a project of writing her life. Sharing the story about how the project began, where it went, how it transformed, how the book never came to be, the talk will focus on issues and lessons that Butalia learnt along the way about writing, about people’s lives, about difference, class, gender, and sexuality.

Vikram Aditya Sahai | Who is the subject of Queer Politics?

This paper seeks to understand who or what is thought to be the subject of queer politics. I will attempt to do so by a reading of the representational/discursive strategies of the queer movement in Delhi by looking at the Queer Pride Parades and the struggle against section 377 in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court. Not only do the two performatives seem to work against each other in my reading, marking a split in the psyche of the movement but they also seem to be fractured within. I will conclude with the limits and possibilities of such a subject and its queer politics.