Between the Sheets/In the Streets

This post was contributed by Dr Tara Atluri, visiting research fellow in the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (BIH) and the Department of Geography, Environment, and Development Studies. Here, Dr Atluri gives an insight into her forthcoming Birkbeck Institute for Social Research (BISR) Methods Lunch on 9 March 2016.

Between the sheets/In the streets event

¿Qué queremos? ¡Justicia! ¿Cuándo? ¡Ahora!

¿Como lograrémos? Luchando! ¿Como lucharemos? Duro, duro / duro, duro, duro!

نظرية المساواة بين الجنسين

In “The Politics of Translation” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak states “The task of the feminist translator is to consider language as a clue to the workings of gendered agency…”(179) How might this quote be applicable to conducting research pertaining to sexualities in the Global South? How is the language that one uses to ask questions about sex, sexuality, and gender central to the kinds of dialogues that one will have and to their research findings?

One can consider Hijras, female to male transgender persons who have a religious and cultural lineage in the Indian subcontinent that pre-dates British colonialism. Within Western secular language Hijras are referred to as transgender persons. And yet, what is perhaps interesting to consider is how ideas of agency and legal rights structure Western grammars of feminism and sexuality. Being transgender is often conceived of as a secular identity that is tied to Western secular legal and medical categories. However, Hijras have historically been considered to be religious figures who sacrifice their genitals in a religious ceremony and upon doing so become those who are considered by the religious to have sacred powers, often to bless children.

In posing questions about sexuality, desire, gender, and feminism how might one conceive of ways to ask questions and frame research that moves away from the assumption that English language secular Western rights based categories of LGBTQ are universal and beneficial to all? (See Big Think video: “Your behaviour creates your gender”)

About the event

This BISR Methods Lunch will pose questions regarding the theoretical and ideological frameworks that often guide research pertaining to gender and sexuality in formerly colonized countries. We will question the Orientalist underpinnings of approaches to uniform ideas of “Eastern” sexualities and also question the colonial nature of doing research about “others.” The workshop will also offer ideas and possible frameworks for conducting ethical, politically informed, engaged, and philosophically thoughtful research.

Aimed at postgraduate students from across the college, this event convened by BiGS will examine methodologies and approaches to sexuality studies, and their intersection with ideas of development and sexualities in the Global South. This Masterclass will generate training opportunities for postgraduate students in several areas of expertise. This event offers students the chance to learn divergent research methods.

Areas of research expertise that students will explore include: Approaches to sexualities in the Global South, Feminist/Queer ethnography, Qualitative and Quantitative approaches to gender and sexuality, and theoretical perspectives pertaining to sexualities and development, globally.

In leading this seminar, Tara Atluri will draw on research done in the Indian subcontinent following the 2012 Delhi gang rape case and 2013 decision by the Supreme Court of India to criminalize same sex desire. This research culminated in the forthcoming manuscript- Āzādī: Sexual Politics and Postcolonial Worlds. (Toronto: Demeter Press, 2016)

Tara Atluri will deliver the “BISR Methods Lunch: Between the Sheets/In the Streets: Interdisciplinary Sexuality and Gender Studies Research” on 9 March 2016 (12pm-1.30pm) Room 402, Malet Street Main Building. Book your place here

Works Cited

  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Outside in the Teaching Machine. New York: Routledge, 1993.

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