At graduate school, I want to combine my training in literary theory with my growing skills in ethnography. I hope to look at how queer cultures in urban India have responded to globalisation, particularly with the rise of new media artefacts like social networking sites and the smartphone. New media forms such as the blog, dating applications, social networking sites and online discussion forums function as areas for activism, romance, friendships, support and even as sources of information for queer people who want to learn about themselves. Such platforms, though often heterocentrist and even queer-phobic, allow queer users access and safety, and a space to participate in urban modernity. How does caste and class work within these desires for aspirational lifestyles and even the loaded label of ‘queer’? But this can prove a difficult stance for communities like the hijras and tirunangais, which are trans groups whose narratives of self are reflective of the deep personal investment in their gender, and their desire for a political and social environment that allows them expression of the same. What does the label queer here mean? Is there then an attitude of ‘queerer that thou’ (Doty 1993) suggested in online spaces?
Despite both the hostile political climate and confused legal status, queer socialities have flourished, encouraged by the global visibilisation of the LGBTQ movement, and the opportunities afforded by dynamic urban landscapes. The precarity of queer lives is often elided in bourgeois narratives of identity and cosmopolitan self-fashioning, and the particular modes of mobility globalisation offers. I am especially interested in the interactions of ‘pre-modern’ queer groups (like the hijras, tirunangais and jogappas) and the LGBTQ communities whose styles of activism borrow from the West. There is a class divide suggested in this binary prevalent in public discourse - between trans communities and gay/lesbian upper class ones. I want to explore this perceived divide further, and understand how new digital technologies have affected caste and class barriers among these various communities. It is this that I hope to access through my familiarity with city spaces and its languages, but also my personal investment in these spaces that I have frequented as a young girl and student. I hope to work in the cities of South India, particularly Bangalore and Chennai, places in which I have lived, travelled and studied.