We are excited to present this special forum on queer scholarship in and of India. The idea for the forum arose out of two Queer Symposia (formerly Queer Preconferences) which were held at the Annual Conference on South Asia at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 2016 and 2017. The symposia featured a multigenerational contingent of transnational scholars working in a variety of disciplines, from historiography and literary criticism to anthropology, ethnomusicology, and performance studies. Ardent discussion and spirited debate took place over the course of several paper panels, roundtable sessions, film screenings, and performances, delving critically into the fields and politics of gender, sexuality, race, class/caste, religion, language, social change, nationalism, globalization, international policy, performance, education, and in other areas across boundaries of nation, discipline, and identity. The results of such conversations and debate inspired the publication of this forum.
This project does not stand in isolation. The Queer Symposia and Forum continue the efforts of a host of books, articles, conference papers, panels, and colloquia that, over the last three decades, have espoused the use of queer and feminist postcolonial hermeneutics for the study and documentation of cultural formations, practices, and performances in and of South Asia and the diaspora. Not only has recent scholarship critically attended to issues of gender, sexuality, nationality, class, caste, race, and ethnicity, it has also challenged boundaries of established research methods that continue to frame our engagements in the field or in the archive. Gayatri Reddy’s introduction to this forum offers an illuminating overview of the trends that have led us to where we are today, charting shifts in paradigms of “thirdness” as a means of analyzing changes to sexual and gendered meaning and practice in India and Indian-based scholarship. Through [End Page 42] the coalescence of these discussions in our Queer Symposia and their subsequent publication in our first Queer Forum, we wish to keep the spirit alive within and at the fringes of our respective disciplines to re/envision new possibilities for research and creative production. The September 2018 decision by the Indian Supreme Court to repeal Section 377 (which made it an offense to have nonpenovaginal sexual intercourse) as well as the April 2014 ruling granting legal recognition and access to public services for the nation’s transgender communities, serves as a call to action for coalitions of activists, artists and scholars. As we plan for the Queer Symposium in 2018 and indeed for more symposia in the years that follow, this publication is the first of what we hope to be many Queer Forums to come on scholarship in and of South Asia and beyond.
In this introductory publication, we foreground performative and narrative modes of reflexivity, centering the personal narratives of interdisciplinary scholars and artists whose work engages queer theories, methodologies, and questions. We focus on the stories of scholars and artists working in the field and within the academy, drawing inspiration from previous works by several of the forum’s contributing authors1 about the ways in which scholarship on South Asia can maximize critical engagements across and beyond disciplines through the decentering of traditional milieu of authority and the embrace of queerly inflected sensorial, affective, and political methodologies.2 Using the self as a site of transparency, this forum brings to light some of the ways in which patriarchy, heteronormativity, and the closet—which are never fully named, specified, or explicitly demanded of all of us—emerge as a presence in the work that we do, the relationships we form, the identities we have, and the spaces in which we operate. We examine how normativity rears its heads in institutional processes such as fieldwork, conferences, and workplace settings, as well as in racial, sexual, and gendered microaggressions that code the Western academic tradition of manifesting authority and authorship. In this collection—and indeed in contexts outside of this publication—it is often the case that we are not able to present the receipts of the moral and institutional apparatuses that demand cisgender performances and hetero-desire, and that suppress, stifle, stymie, segregate, or haunt the desires and performances of queer, trans, and other gender-nonconforming people. As Naisargi...