The dissertation explores how the globalizing expansion of LGBT and HIV-AIDS activism into global south locations such as India relies on transregional and translocal communities of gender/sexually variant persons, and yet subordinates them and associated discourses of gender/sexual difference within the tiered hierarchies of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender; particularly GTB) organizations and transnationally-funded HIV-AIDS intervention projects. Engaging with conversations and debates across transnational sexuality studies, transnational feminism, Marxist theories of capital, and literary approaches to cross-cultural translation, I argue that the globalizing expansion of gender/sexual identity and rights based politics in India takes place through mutually transformative, yet structurally constrained, intersections and translations between institutions such as funders, non-governmental organizations and the state on one hand, and networks, communities and subcultures of socio-economically marginalized gender/sexually variant persons (such as kothis, dhuranis and hijras) on the other. Such transformative interactions both create new political possibilities, and reproduce hierarchies related to location, class, caste, gender/sexual marginality and social respectability. Even as translations with subcultural languages of gender/sexual variance enable the transnational expansion and hegemony of institutional categories of identity and representation, lower class/caste communities and discourses become positioned as `local' or `vernacular' relative to national and transnational formations of activism and discourse. On one hand, the reification of communities as `sexual minorities' and as local variants of transnational categories like transgender or `men who have sex with men' results in identitarian distinctions such as the homosexual/transgender divide that selectively enable certain political possibilities, but constrain many contextually flexible lived practices and fluid subject positions that become unintelligible in terms of emerging cartographies of identity. On the other hand, liberal discourses that valorize individual choice and gender/sexual fluidity may also elide mobile negotiations with privilege and power (such as locally variable distinctions between feminine insiders and masculine outsiders) in kothi, dhurani and hijra communities. Further, dominant forms of activism based on discourses of equal rights and the private/public divide often cast lower class/caste persons and related practices as uncivil and/or criminal. Drawing upon five years of ethnographic research in eastern India, the dissertation critiques how hegemonic forms of identity and rights based politics produces lower class/caste groups as a victimized minorities and exploitable labor pools, rather than as active and full participants in the transnational movement for LGBT rights.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2013. Major:Feminist Studies. Advisor: Richa Nagar. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 503 pages.
Globalizing through the vernacular: gender/sexual transnationalism and the making of sexual minorities in Eastern India.
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